January 2009 Editorial Winner

Court clerk check-writing changes make sense
By David Gerard, Muskogee Phoenix
The Muskogee County Court Clerk’s Office reports it has made changes in the way money is handled and checks are written to prevent embezzlement. That is welcome news after a state audit last year showed about $600,000 — 10 percent of the money collected by the office — was embezzled from November 2007 through September 2008.
In today’s Sunday Extra, Court Clerk Paula Sexton states that the office now has three new digital security cameras and she and a judge sign all checks written by the office.
According to the state auditors and Sexton, the former deputy clerk now charged with 11 counts of embezzlement, Jackie L. Borovetz, would write a check in the name of the entity it should go to, “then write another check using her maiden name or to a family name as the recipient.” Borovetz allegedly recorded only the first check in the software system used when Borovetz was there. That system has been scuttled for a new system that doesn’t allow changing a voucher already written.
All but 13 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are on the old system that allowed changing a voucher. In today’s story, Sexton states that she believes all the court clerk offices across the state should change to a better system.
That makes sense. If one person discovered a glitch in the system that allowed a $600,000- embezzlement, someone else probably will, too. And no county knowing what happened in Muskogee County will want that to happen there.
But as we have said before, a simple measure helps prevent embezzlement — having two people sign checks and account for all money.
That’s happening now in the Muskogee County Court Clerk’s Office, but it wasn’t happening last year when Borovetz was there.
Sexton states she received praise from the state auditor for the way her books were kept. We doubt, however, the auditor had praise for the book Borovetz, under Sexton’s watch, was keeping.
We don’t want to beat a dead horse, but all we hear from Sexton and other officials is that it was a software problem and they are doing a wonderful job even though during a nine-month period $600,000 slipped out the office and ended up in area casinos.
That’s more than half a million dollars that had better uses in our state court system, where it belongs.