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Calaveras In No Rush To Repay State

Calaveras County is working to set things straight with the state Controller´s Office over millions of dollars it received during the Charles Ng murder trial.

Although the murders took place in Wilseyville, Ng´s attorneys got the trial moved to Orange County in 1994. Ng was convicted of 11 torture-murders and sentenced to death in 1999. The proceedings tallied up to be the most costly trial in United States history.

A letter to county officials from the state Controller´s Office dated May 26, said the county was paid $19,303,552, but sent in receipts for only $6,507,669.

The letter gave a deadline of June 30 for the county to rectify the $12,795,883 difference.

Last week, county Chief Administrator Officer (CAO) Tom Mitchell and Treasurer Lynnette Norfolk sent separate letters to John Korach, chief of the state´s Division of Accounting and Reporting.

Mitchell explained the county had been waiting on an audit from the state and in the meantime placed the more than $11 million in an interest-bearing account.

“There has obviously been some confusion on the timing of the final audit primarily due to staff turnover,” Mitchell wrote.

He went on to say he has only been CAO since October 2002 and took over for an interim CAO who only served one and a half years.

“All of the previous administrative staff who had worked on the Ng trial have either moved to other county departments or left the county to work for other agencies,” Mitchell added.

While the county figures out what it owes the state, Mitchell suggested a $1 million per month payment plan and referred to Norfolk´s letter for details.

Despite Mitchell´s assertion that the money has been kept in an interest-bearing account, Norfolk said reimbursing the entire $11 million would place the county in a precarious cash-flow position with respect to invested funds.

A payment plan would allow time to work with Orange County and investigate while keeping adequate cash flow until property tax revenue comes in November, she said.

The county still needs to reconcile costs incurred during the change of venue, Mitchell said. And research needs to be done on missing claims from 1997 to 1999, he said.

The county is now waiting to hear back from the state.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com