Jeff McDonald at the San Diego Union-Tribune Watchdog reports:
A million dollars appears to be missing in records of San Diego Police Department funds seized from drug runners and other criminals, and the department is seeking an audit after U-T Watchdog spotted the issue.
Under a program that directs seized assets to local law enforcement agencies, the police force receives money from the U.S. Treasury Department. The Watchdog identified the missing money in reviewing records of the program over the past five years.
The certification report San Diego police submitted to the federal government in 2010 showed a closing balance of $1,153,426.
For 2011, the same report showed a beginning balance of $153,426 — exactly $1 million less than the prior year — with no explanation.
The funds in question came from assets seized by Treasury agencies including Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Secret Service. Local agencies also receive funds from the Department of Justice when assets are seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies.
Over the past five years, San Diego police received $6.4 million from the Justice and Treasury programs.
The U-T has been reporting on spending through such programs in jurisdictions across the region since April. The Watchdog received the San Diego police program records on May 14, and asked the next day about the $1 million inconsistency.
On Thursday, spokesman Lt. Kevin Mayer issued a brief statement saying the matter was being referred to financial investigators at City Hall.
“We acknowledge you have noted a discrepancy,” Mayer wrote. “We have asked the City Comptroller to do a complete review and audit of the seized asset fund to see if there is an error.”
The Treasury Department declined to discuss what ramifications there might be for the San Diego Police Department. Officials issued a statement saying the government has measures in place to make sure program participants comply with federal rules over how the funds may be used.
The complete records obtained by McDonald's Public Records Act request are here.
Diane Goldstein, a speaker with the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, says, "Regardless of what is going on with the missing funds, the California Legislature should reform the process to reclaim Equitable Sharing revenues to a general fund, where a legislature will be responsible for them (either state or local), and the state auditor will be able to conduct more vigorous oversight."