Special audit showed under-billing in Moriarty

A special audit showed under-billing on water accounts in Moriarty, including for a former elected official. That’s according to a report by State Auditor Tim Keller, whose office designated a “forensic audit” at the city’s request.

Moriarty has since fired two employees, its former public works director and a billing clerk; the city then hired Joy Ansley as public works director.

Some issues in the report have been forwarded to law enforcement for possible criminal charges, the report says.

The report does not name the former elected official whose commercial account had been adjusted.

Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart said the city has “initiated 80 percent” of the auditor’s recommendations, and is on track to complete them.

In addition to money lost potentially totaling thousands of dollars, there is water missing from the city’s system that can’t be accounted for, the report says. “Water loss from 2010 to 2015 ranges from 10.9 million to 33.3 million gallons per year” of unaccounted water, as high as 27 percent.

Adjustments to a dozen bulk water accounts totaled $173,037, with one account adjusted by $89,402 and another by more than $27,000.

Other issues noted in the report include access by various city employees to computers that have account files on them; those accounts can be changed manually, the report says.

Hart said the city is changing the way it accesses computer files, with unique usernames and passwords for each employee, allowing the city to track changes made to an account.

The report also compared what the city charges its residents for water to that of neighboring communities. Moriarty charges $15.51 for 6,000 gallons of water; that cost in Edgewood through Entranosa Water is $45.14, in Tucumcari $28.25 and in Santa Rosa, $16.57.

In addition, “unauthorized use of the City’s bulk water account was recorded under the former Superintendent of Public Works user name,” the report says. In 2011, 5,846 gallons were recorded for that account; in 2012 that was 12,512; in 2013 it was 8,601; and in 2015 it was 17 gallons. A spike of 107,891 gallons in 2014 was not documented.

The report notes that the city has only a 600-gallon holding tank. “Transactions with more than 600 gallons of water dispensed in the bulk water terminal totaled 90,380 gallons.”

Moriarty had installed new water meters because the level of unaccounted water was too high, Hart said. “We got the new meters in and saw some improvement, but not what I thought it would be,” Hart said.

A city employee had noticed billing discrepancies. “State law says that if you suspect fraud or see fraud you have to turn it over to the state. We did that immediately. … We knew there was a lot of money involved so we requested a forensic audit so we could gather evidence if there was evidence to be gathered.”

Hart finished, “Everybody deserves a fair water bill. Everybody deserves to be treated the same and equal regardless of who you are. I will ensure we have a fair system in place.”

This week Keller’s office released a list of “at-risk” agencies which includes Torrance County, which did not submit its audit by the deadline.

The list “identifies one entity with an audit opinion that indicates significant problems with its financial statements, the Town of Estancia.”

Moriarty does not appear on the list of at-risk entities.