Audit finds misappropriated funds in Bennington

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:08 PM CST
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BENNINGTON, Okla. (KXII) - An investigative audit by the Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector found that more than half of the town’s annual budget was misappropriated in just a three month period.

The report names several former employees of the town, including town clerk-treasurer Kathy Wilkinson, Police Chief Kristopher Robinson and Assistant Police Chief Randy Smith.

The report states that Wilkinson, Robinson and Smith received $15,394 in improper payroll payments.

They got paychecks totaling thousands of dollars they were supposed to be making. All have since been relieved of their positions.

Emily Hyde, a former Bennington council member said she spoke with auditors who asked her about embezzlement payment “to the extend they were asking if I knew of any signed checks and things of that matter.”

“If we could have had the money that was taken I believe a lot of things could have been changed,” Hyde said, alluding to the fact the town did not have enough money for a second pipeline that came through the south of town.

The report says the town did not have the internal controls to manage expenditures.

It says the mayor was signing blank checks and transactions were not approved until after funds were spent by the town. There was no paper trail to account for town expenses.

The report says Robinson sold one of Bennington’s police vehicle without the city’s approval and pocketed one thousand dollars in proceeds.

“We were really unaware of it, everything had happened right as the new council was taking over and we were kind of stepping into what I called a big mess,” Hyde said.

Cindy Byrd, Oklahoma state auditor and inspector said receipts were coming into the town over a three month period that the clerk treasurer was not depositing.

“Not only was it payroll payments, there were also cash receipts that couldn’t be traced to a deposit,” Byrd said.

In what Byrd called the “most blatant issue of the audit” she said Robinson sold a police vehicle in the town’s name without board approval for $1,000 and the money was never deposited into the town’s bank account.

Hyde said she voted Randy Smith out during a city meeting.

“I had seen the purchase reports for the incident that happened and as a council member it was my job to put my personal friendships aside for the sake of the city,” Hyde said.

The report says the misconduct stemmed far beyond improper payments.

The auditor found that Chief Robinson received $877 in free utility payments and was provided a home he didn’t have to pay taxes on.

In response to the audit, the town of Bennington said they are “aware” of its release and are “actively reviewing it.”

“The employees named in the audit are no longer employed with the town of Bennington and that’s all that can be released since it’s an ongoing criminal investigation,” a town employee told News 12.

The audit was conducted between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018.

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