Eau Claire County Department of Human Services under investigation

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 8:49 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - In May, the Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors learned of a $1.1 million accounting error in the county's Department of Human Services.

Following that discovery, Board Supervisors Steve Chilson and Mark Beckfield approached the Eau Claire County Sheriff about launching an investigation into DHS.

“What we’re hoping for is that we can get our questions answered and we have some transparency into what is truly going on and driving these deficits, the shortages, the theft. What things are occurring,” said Chilson.

Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer says the department is currently in the fact finding phase of the investigation.

“We’ve looked at some things that are very concerning that we’re following up on. We’ve made some requests locally here of places that are receiving money from DHS,” explained Cramer.

Cramer and the two supervisors are now asking for more resources.

They want a forensic audit of the department done, after another theft and error was revealed this week.

“This latest theft was enough’s enough. We’ve had now 3 thefts in a very short period of time in Eau Claire County, we’ve had errors in accounting, $1.3 million in January and then just Monday another $200,000-$230,000 in error,” said Beckfield.

Chilson and Beckfield say they initially raised the idea of the investigation as concerned citizens.

As board supervisors, they are putting a resolution forward to full county board to release more resources to expand the current investigation.

“Mark and I will simply be bringing this forward. Hopefully the county board will agree and pass it so that we can begin the process of the forensic audit which takes a deeper dive into the numbers and the operation of the department,” said Chilson.

Beckfield and Chilson don't believe the whole Department of Human Services is at fault, but say something needs to be done.

“The frontline workers at DHS are working hard and I really believe they’re doing a great mission, but I do think that we have some definite challenges in that department that need to be addressed and addressed now because it’s costing us millions of dollars a year in overages. We have overspent over $10 million in the last five years, we’ve added over 90 employees in the last four years in DHS and we need to get our hands around the problem and now is the time,” explained Beckfield.

The resolution put forward for those additional resources will be brought to the Finance Committee on Monday, and Beckfield and Chilson hope it will then go to the full county board on Tuesday.

Eau Claire County Administrator Kathryn Schauf says to WEAU it would be inappropriate to comment on an investigation.

WEAU did leave a message for the DHS director in Eau Claire County, but have not heard back.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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