Audit reveals mishandled city funds in Las Cruces

Politics - Government

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — An audit released Tuesday by the Office of the New Mexico State Auditor has revealed more than $1.8 million in mishandled or misused city funds related to the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau and various city-sponsored events over a four-year period.

The audit identified what officials described as serious conflicts of interest that were uncovered as part of an investigation that began in December 2018. Several months later, the City Council voted to contract with an outside firm to follow up on the city’s initial findings. The final review spanned nearly a year and included an extensive analysis of millions of pages of documentation.

The report detailed what officials said was either a significant breakdown or willful disregard of internal controls that were designed to prevent and detect fraud. The report also highlighted numerous violations of city policies and procedures and apparent violations of the procurement code.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima said the findings already have resulted in changes and that a subsequent external audit did not show any repeat findings.

“The city of Las Cruces is dedicated to transparency and accountability. We are happy that this report is being made public, so that citizens will know we take these items very seriously,” he said in a statement.

The city has updated internal controls and policies, implemented an ordinance focused on accountability in government, and restructured its internal audit office. Oversight committees also have been named. The auditor’s office said the report has been referred to the state attorney general’s office for further review.

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