Umatilla County is giving $17,377.38 to help the Association of Oregon Counties cover more than $900,000 it misspent. The county board of commissioners voted 3-0 at its meeting Wednesday in Pendleton to approve the handout.

County Commissioner George Murdock said the board anticipated the expense, which will come out of funds for membership dues and the like.

“This whole issue has been under discussion and consideration for a year,” he said, and Oregon’s 36 counties were involved in the process. 

The association is an intergovernmental organization that lobbies for Oregon’s counties, which in turn pay annual dues. The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners in March approved $23,256.95 for the dues. 

An audit in August revealed the association over five years took at least $900,000 from its county road program to cover general operations, according to reporting by The Oregonian. Murdock said the association used the money for “programs and services with good intentions of restoring it, but that didn’t happen.” 

The association on a Nov. 8 invoice to Umatilla County stated the AOC board of directors on Oct. 8 voted to bill counties a “one-time assessment” to replace the road funds “borrowed by AOC without prior Board authorization.”

Mckenzie Farrell, communications director for the AOC, said the accounting firm Moss Adams conducted the audit and determined the size of the financial gap. She explained the AOC calculated the amount of each assessment using the dues formula, a base fee, as well as fees based on population and assessed property value. Counties can pay in a lump sum, which is what Umatilla County commissioners opted for, or over time.

“To date,” she said, “none of Oregon’s 36 counties have informed AOC that they do not intend to pay the assessment. Any county assessments that are not paid will remain the responsibility of AOC.” 

Farrell also explained the association’s board took “a series of steps and actions following discovery of a discrepancy in the anticipated AOC County Road Program account.”

The steps include hiring a financial consulting firm to review all accounts, completing a fiscal software conversion, conducting a systemic review of the association’s financial system and reviewing all fiscal controls. The board in August approved all recommendations Moss Adams outlined in its report.

Murdock said Umatilla County is confident the association made sure this kind of oversight would not happen again.

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