Central Oregon Law Enforcement Services was delinquent, again. It failed to file a timely audit of its finances with Oregon’s secretary of state.

It’s not a huge scandal, but it needs to stop happening.

First, COLES failed to comply with state law. Second, it’s an organization of law enforcement officers failing to comply with the law, which looks terrible.

COLES is a cooperative regional law enforcement agency. It controls spending of more than $500,000 a year. It oversees the regional drug enforcement task force — Central Oregon Drug Enforcement, or CODE, team.

And third, just a few years ago in 2016, former Deschutes County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Beard pleaded guilty to stealing and laundering more than $200,000 intended for Deschutes County and the CODE team.

Oregon requires government agencies to perform audits to ensure taxpayer money is spent carefully. Audits can catch crooks, misspending and sloppy financial practices. COLES should comply with the law.

Oregon law requires that local governments, school districts, special districts and councils of governments, such as COLES, submit financial statements to the secretary of state. Organizations that expend more than $500,000 are required to submit audited statements. COLES should have filed its audit by Dec. 31, 2018 for the 2018 fiscal year.

Why didn’t COLES do it?

Well, the first thing to know is that after we started emailing Central Oregon law enforcement leaders on Tuesday they made things happen quickly. By 4 p.m. on Wednesday, it was filed. The audit had apparently been completed in June, just not filed.

But why didn’t it get filed before we asked about it?

Capt. Deron McMaster of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department, who is serving as the administrator of COLES, sounded frustrated when we spoke to him. He told us he specifically told the auditor, Barnett and Company CPAs of Bend, that he didn’t want a late audit because of problems in the past. He wanted the audit by November 2018, so he could meet the December 2018 deadline. He didn’t get it. It was then his understanding that the auditor was going to ask for an extension.

Amy Dale, who is the municipal audit manager for the secretary of state, denied the extension because there has to be a reason other than just asking for more time. “Further, the entity has historically filed late reports,” she wrote in an email. “We have not received any further word and the audit has not yet been filed. We sent incomplete filing letters reminding them of the requirements on 2/11/19, 3/14/19, and 4/18/19.”

McMaster said he was not told an extension was not granted. The secretary of state’s office said the notice of the denial and the incomplete filing letters were sent to the auditor and COLES. We left a message Wednesday for auditor John Barnett of Barnett and Company CPAs. He was “busy,” we were told.

Something good, though, may come with this foul-up. McMaster wants to ensure it never happens again. He said one suggestion is to piggyback the organization’s audit on Deschutes County’s audit. It’s always a good thing when law enforcement finds a way to comply with the law.

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