Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Audit highlights court clerk errors
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jul 11, 2014, 09:14

HOPEWELL — The Hopewell Combined General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is under fire by the state auditor of public accounts for clerical errors. In a letter dated June 17 of this year, several transactions are noted where the city, as well as the state, suffered a loss of funds. 

The audit period, as stated in the letter, ran from July 1, 2012 until June 30, 2013. The letter investigated more than 20 cases. 

“The clerk and her staff did not properly bill and collect court fines and costs, resulting in a loss of revenue to the Commonwealth and locality,” the letter states. 

In six of the cases that were investigated, the clerk incorrectly entered the cases in the court’s automated information system, marking the cases as being state instead of local offenses. This misinformation entered in the system resulted in the state being billed for court-appointed attorney fees totaling $698 and a loss to the city in the amount of $750. 

Another loss in funds, totaling $120, came from the clerk incorrectly billing the state instead of the locality for court-appointed attorney fees. 

In two other cases, the clerk did not properly estimate fines which totaled $400. This came at a loss of funds to the state. 

A loss of $1,004 occurred over nine cases in which the clerk overcharged defendants for court appointed attorney fees; of the nine cases, seven involved juveniles who, according to the letter, “are not supposed to assessed fees for court appointed attorneys.” 

For two of the cases, the clerk did not properly enter the cases through the court’s automated information system as local offenses instead of state offenses, which “would have resulted in a loss to the Commonwealth when the accounts were paid.”

The court was also cited for errors in improper documentation. In four cases, the letter states the clerk was not able to “locate adequate supporting documentation to allow us to determine whether or not the Commonwealth or locality were properly billed for court appointed attorney fees or if the correct amount was assessed to the defendants.” 

The letter, which was sent from Martha Mavredes, CPA, not only cites the errors made by the courts but also says that the errors need to be corrected immediately. 

“…The Clerk should work with her staff to ensure they understand the billing and collection requirements and, if necessary, request additional training from the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia,” Mavredes writes in the letter. 

She also goes on to state that the clerk, Deborah Hatcher, who is not specifically mentioned in the letter except for an attachment at the bottom, “did not escheat unclaimed property and restitution, totaling $4,177, as required by Section 55-210.26:1 of the Code of Virginia. We recommend the clerk remit unclaimed property to the Division of Unclaimed Property and unclaimed restitution to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund as required by the Code of Virginia.” 

The letter did not state a total amount of cases which would have been in the Combined Courts during the time of the audit, but it would likely be thousands of cases. Calls placed to Deborah Hatcher were not immediately returned. 

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