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Audit: Pierce County Superior Court’s financial operations a ‘serious concern’

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(The Center Square) – A new audit from the Washington State Auditor’s Office finds that the Pierce County Superior Court Clerk’s Office lacks sufficient oversight of its financial operations.

The audit found a number of issues within the clerk’s office, including a lack of action to pay out 11 large accounts held in trust.

The clerk’s office did not disburse $1.9 million in funds to the 11 individual trust accounts in 2022.

Those 11 trust fund accounts represented 93% of the total trust account bank balances held by the clerk’s office, according to the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

State auditors also found that the clerk’s office did not perform monthly bank balance reconciliations, which resulted in the bank balance reporting $2.5 million less than the bank statement balance as of Jan. 2.

The Pierce County Superior Court Clerk’s Office has also failed to create a trust fund account for one check totaling $251,676. That check has been in the clerk’s office’s vault since Aug. 10, 2023 when a court order was signed and filed instructing the office to invest the funds into a trust account.

“Simply put, the results of this audit are a cause for serious concern,” State Auditor Pat McCarthy said in a news release. “The financial operations of the clerk’s office have a direct impact on those who trust in our court system to resolve their legal issues and handle funds attentively.”

The Washington State Auditor’s Office recommended the Pierce County Superior Court Clerk’s Office implement appropriate oversight and strengthen internal controls over trust fund accounts and reconciliations.

“While there was no loss of or misuse of funds identified in this audit, it did raise concerns that the internal processes and reporting timeliness of the Superior Court Clerk’s Office do not meet accounting standards,” the audit stated. “We were aware of those performance gaps and have been implementing an improvement plan for several months.”

However, the audit noted that Pierce County did not share the improvement plan or the steps taken to address the auditor’s concerns.