County money

This week, I have been doing lots of research and having lots of conversations on the topic of “county money” as defined in the Code of Iowa.  As with anything related to the County, it’s always more complicated than you might think.

For example, over the last three plus years, I have noticed there are at least three distinct camps when it comes to the Code:  those that think it’s a suggestion book, those that interpret it one way on one day and another way the next day, and those that think it should be adhered to and if you don’t like it, then lobby the Legislature/Governor to get it changed.  Guess which camp I’m in?

Here are some Code sections I found or that I was directed to along with a few other tidbits I may use in the future.  I’m posting this information because I know if I don’t, then someone will ask me for it in a week and I’ll have to go through the whole process of finding it again.  Just this past week, I’ve directed a 2-3 people to this blog for data I posted months ago.

Alas, this is a work in progress so don’t be surprised if the content changes from time to time.

331.552 – The treasurer shall:  (1) Receive all money payable to the county unless otherwise provided by law.  (2) Disburse money owed or payable by the county on warrants or checks drawn and signed by the auditor and sealed with the official county seal.  (3) Keep a true account of all receipts and disbursements of the county, which account shall be available for inspection by the board at any reasonable time.

331.402(2) – The board may (e) authorize the auditor to issue checks in lieu of warrants.  The checks shall be charged directly against a bank account controlled by the county treasurer[added 13 October 2010]

331.902(1) – … the fees and other charges collected by the auditor, treasurer, recorder, and sheriff … belong to the county.

64.2 – All other public officers, except as otherwise specially provided,
shall give bond with the conditions, in substance, as follows:  That as [Supervisor, Auditor, Attorney, Sheriff, Recorder, Treasurer] in Linn County, the officer will render a true account of the office and of the officer’s doings therein to the proper authority, when required thereby or by law; that the officer will promptly pay over to the officer or person entitled thereto all moneys which may come into the officer’s hands by virtue of the office; that the officer will promptly account for all balances of money remaining in the officer’s hands at the termination of the office …. [added 11 October 2010]

331.902(3) – Each elective officer … shall make a quarterly report to the board ….  The officer shall pay at least quarterly to the county treasurer the fees and charges collected ….

331.901(5) – A county or township officer … shall not appropriate, give, or loan public funds to or in favor of an institution, school, association, or object which is under ecclesiastical or sectarian management or control.

331.605A – … The treasurer, on behalf of the recorder, shall establish and maintain a county recorder’s records management fund ….

331.605B(1) – The recorder shall make available any information required by the county or state auditor concerning the fees collected under section 331.605A ….

331.605C(3) – The treasurer, on behalf of the recorder, shall establish and maintain a county recorder’s electronic transaction fund ….

331.605C(5) – The recorder shall make available any information required by the county auditor or auditor of state concerning the fees collected under this section ….

331.655(3) – The sheriff shall keep an accurate record of fees collected in the county system, make a quarterly report of the fees collected to the board, and pay the fees belonging to the county into the county treasury as provided in section 331.902.  [added 11 October 2010] 

445.1(3) – “County system” means a method of data storage and retrieval as approved by the auditor of state including, but not limited to tax lists, books, records, indexes, registers, or schedules.  [added 11 October 2010]

331.756(7) – The county attorney shall give advice or written opinion … to the board and other county officers … upon any matters in which the … county … is interested, or relating to the duty of the officer in any matters in which the … county … may have an interest ….

331.756(9) – The county attorney shall give a receipt to all persons from whom the county attorney receives money in an official capacity and file a duplicate receipt with the county auditor.

331.504 – The auditor shall maintain the books and records required to be kept by the board under section 331.303.

331.303(1) – The board shall keep record books as follows:  (b) A “warrant book” which records each warrant drawn in the order of issuance by number, date, amount, and name of drawee, and refers to the order in the minute book authorizing its drawing.  The board may authorize the auditor to issue checks in lieu of warrants.  If the issuance of checks is authorized, the word “check” shall be substituted for the word “warrant” in those sections of this chapter and chapters 6B, 11, 35B, 336, 349, 350, 427B, and 468 in which the issuance of a check is authorized in lieu of a warrant. (c)  A “claim register” which records all claims for money filed against the county.  Claims shall be numbered consecutively in order of filing and entered alphabetically by the claimant’s name.  The claim register shall show the date of filing, the number of the claim and its general nature, and the action of the board on the claim including the fund against which it is allowed.  The claims allowed at each meeting shall be listed in the minute book by claim number.

331.506(5) – An officer certifying an erroneous bill or claim against the county is liable on the officer’s official bond for a loss to the county resulting from the error.  [added 11 October 2010]

64.8 – The bonds of members of the boards of supervisors, county    attorneys, recorders, auditors, sheriffs, and assessors shall each be in a penal sum of not less than twenty thousand dollars.  The amount of each bond shall be determined by the board of supervisors.  [added 11 October 2010]

331.303(2) – The board shall maintain its records in accordance with chapter 22.

22.2(1) – Every person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.  [added 12 October 2010]   

331.303(5) – The board shall select official newspapers and cause official publications to be made in accordance with chapters 349 and 618.

349.18(1) – All proceedings of each regular, adjourned, or special meeting of a board of supervisors, including the schedule of bills allowed, shall be published immediately after the adjournment of the meeting.

349.18(2) – The publication of the schedule of the bills allowed shall include a list of all claims allowed, including salary claims for services performed, showing the name of the person or firm making the claim, the reason for the claim, and the amount of the claim, except that the publication of claims shall comply with the following:  (a) The names of persons receiving relief shall not be published.  (c)  If the reason for the claims is the same, two or more claims made by the same vendor, supplier, or claimant may be consolidated if the number of claims consolidated and the total consolidated claim amount are listed in the statement.  However, the board shall provide at its office upon request an unconsolidated list of all claims allowed.

11.6(4a) – In addition to the powers and duties under other provisions of the Code, the auditor of state may at any time cause to be made a complete or partial reaudit of the financial condition and transactions of any city, county, county hospital, memorial hospital, entity organized under chapter 28E, merged area, area education agency, school corporation, township, or other governmental subdivision, or an office of any of these, if one of the following conditions exists: (2) The auditor of state receives from an elected official or employee of the governmental subdivision a written request for a complete or partial reaudit of the governmental subdivision.

331.437 – It is unlawful for a county official, the expenditures of whose office come under this part, to authorize the expenditure of a sum for the official’s department larger than the amount which has been appropriated for that department by the board.   A county official in charge of a department or office who violates this law is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.  The penalty in this section is in addition to the liability imposed in section 331.476.  [added 11 October 2010]

66.1A – Any appointive or elective officer, except such as may be removed only by impeachment, holding any public office in the state or in any division or municipality thereof may be removed from office by the district court for any of the following reasons:

1.  For willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of the office.
2.  For willful misconduct or maladministration in office.
3.  For corruption.
4.  For extortion.
5.  Upon conviction of a felony.
6.  For intoxication, or upon conviction of being intoxicated.
7.  Upon conviction of violating the provisions of chapter 68A.  [added 10 October 2010]

4 comments on “County money

  1. October 8, 2010 lcauditor

    Office of the Attorney General State of Iowa

    Opinion No. 92-3-1 1 March 5, 1992

    COUNTIES: Investment of Public Funds. Iowa I II, s 39A; Iowa Code ss 331.401(1)(n), 331.555(5),331.555(6) and 453.1 (1991 ); Iowa Code Supp. s 452.10(1991). The exclusive authority for investment of idle county public funds, pursuant to Iowa Code s 453.1, is vested in the county treasurer. A board of supervisors, under chapters 452 and 453, possesses limited investment authority, but does have certain management responsibilities for county investments and is authorized to designate the depositories for funds on hand.

    In 1978 Op.Att’y Gen.152, we concluded that “all funds not needed for current operating expenses are to be invested by the treasurer of the political subdivision.” Similarly, in 1974 Op.Att’y Gen 737, 738, we observed that s 453.1 “designates the county treasurer [as]the officer having responsibility for the investment of county funds not needed for current operating expenses .” See also 1986 Op.Att’y Gen. 3 (#85-1-12(L)); 1980 Op.Att ‘y Gen. 311, 312; 1980 Op.Att’y Gen. 50 (#79-4-2(L)). Furthermore, we have concluded that investment authority is an exclusive legislative grant. See 1974 Op.Att’y Gen 737, 738(concluding that a clerk of court lacks authority to invest funds).

    5. The county treasurer shall maintain custody of all public moneys in the treasurer’s possession and deposit or invest the moneys as provided in section 452.10 and chapter 453.

    6. The county treasurer shall keep all funds invested to the extent practicable and may invest the funds jointly with one or more counties, judicial district departments of correctional services, cities, or city utilities pursuant to a joint agreement.
    Iowa Code s 331.555(5) and (6) (1991).

  2. October 13, 2010 lcauditor

    Office of the Attorney General State of Iowa

    Opinion No. 94-5-6(L) 1 May 19, 1994

    COUNTIES: Board of Supervisors; Auditor. Iowa Code § 331.506(3)(a) (1993): Power to issue warrants. Iowa Code section 331.506(3)(a) (1993) provides county boards of supervisors with the power to delegate the initial responsibility to county auditors for issuing warrants to pay all “fixed charges.”

    In the arena of public finance, “warrants” signify drafts upon the public treasury to pay existing debts arising from duly authorized claims. See Harrison County v. Ogden, 165 Iowa 325, 145 N.W.2d 681, 686-87 (1914); see also Missouri Gravel Co. v. Federal Sur. Co., 212 Iowa 1322, 237 N.W. 635, 639 (1931); 93 C.J.S. Warrants 555 (1956).

    Early in Iowa statehood the General Assembly placed virtually all responsibility for authorizing a warrant upon county boards; only one for jury fees fell outside their scope of responsibility. E.g., Iowa Code § 321 (1860); § 321 (1873). This legislative scheme remained unchanged for more than one hundred years. Then, in 1981, the General Assembly slightly expanded the responsibility for authorizing warrants. See 1981 Acts, 69th G.A., ch. 117, § 505, at 360- 61.

    With that change, county boards may now delegate to county auditors the initial responsibility for authorizing some warrants:

    1. Except as provided in subsections 2 and 3, the auditor shall sign or issue a county warrant only after approval of the board by recorded vote. . . .
    2. The auditor may issue warrants to pay the following claims. . . without prior approval of the board:

    a. Witness fees and mileage for attendance before a grand jury. . . .

    b. Witness fees and mileage in trials of criminal actions prosecuted under county ordinance. . . .

    *2 c. Fees and costs. . . in connection with criminal and civil actions. . . .

    d. Expenses of the grand jury. . . .

    3. The board, by resolution, may authorize the auditor to issue warrants to make the following payments without prior approval of the board:

    a. For fixed charges including, but not limited to, freight, express, postage, water, light, telephone service or contractual services, after a bill is filed with the auditor.

    b. For salaries and payrolls if the compensation has been fixed or approved by the board. . . .

    4. The bills paid under subsections 2 and 3 shall be submitted to the board for review and approval at its next meeting following the payment. . . .

    Iowa Code § 331.506 (emphasis added). The new law, however, only affected the time at which a county board must make an accounting of warrants. It did not shift the ultimate responsibility for their issuance, for, in all instances, a county board must review and approve the underlying bills. See Iowa Code §§ 331.303(1)(b); 331.402(2)(d); 331.506(1),(4).

  3. November 5, 2010 lcauditor

    Excerpts from Case #EQCV22861 – Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

    The County Auditor and County Treasurer were not aware of the monies in the Drug Fund until the media reports of the Fund surfaced in February 2004.

    At first, Jones testified that he could purchase anything he wanted for his office without the approval of the Board of Supervisors as long as the amount was within the line item of his budget. Later he admitted that the Board does act as a check and balance on the spending of county offices and that the Board does have the ability to refuse a purchase.

    A public official cannot accept the duties, responsibilities and privileges of his position, and then take the position that he failed to perform them because he failed to read the statute creating those same duties, responsibilities and privileges. Ignorance of the law is no excuse in a criminal case, and it is not an excuse in this quasi-criminal case. Nor can Jones justify his conduct on the basis that he had good motives, did not profit personally and it was easier to do it his way. Both explanations consititute conduct completely unacceptable in a public official.

    Jones testified that he viewed Barry as his boss, and took orders from him regarding law enforcement. The Court knows of no legal basis for such a belief, except for the very limited circumstance described in Iowa Code 331.653(2). The Sheriff’s duties and responsibilities are set out by statute, and except for 331.653(2) do not involve taking orders from the County Attorney.

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