Report Unlawful Use of Public Funds or Property
Who can report?
Any member of the public may submit to the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) financial concerns about a local government, such as a county, city, town, political subdivision, or school district.
In addition, Minnesota law requires that local government officials and employees notify the OSA, in writing, when they have evidence of possible theft of public funds or property.
Similarly, public accountants are required by Minnesota law to notify the OSA when, during the course of an audit, they discover evidence of financial misconduct by a local government officer or employee.
What are the mandatory reporting statutes?
Mandatory Reporting Requirement for Local Government Officials and Employees: Minnesota Statute section 609.456, subd. 1, states:
Whenever a public employee or public officer of a political subdivision, charter commission, or local pension plan, governed by sections 424A.091 to 424A.96 or Chapter 354A, discovers evidence of theft, embezzlement, unlawful use of public funds or property, or misuse of public funds by a charter commission or any person authorized to expend public funds, the employee or officer shall promptly report to law enforcement and shall promptly report in writing to the state auditor a detailed description of the alleged incident or incidents. Notwithstanding chapter 13 or any other statute related to the classification of government data, the public employee or public officer shall provide data or information related to the alleged incident or incidents to the state auditor and law enforcement, including data classified as not public.
Mandatory Reporting Requirement for Public Accountants: Minnesota Statute section 6.67 states:
Whenever a public accountant in the course of auditing the books and affairs of a political subdivision or a local public pension plan governed by chapter 354A or 422A or Laws 2-13, chapter 111, article 5, sections 31 to 42, discovers evidence pointing to nonfeasance, misfeasance, or malfeasance, on the part of an officer or employee in the conduct of duties and affairs, the public accountant shall promptly make a report of such discovery to the state auditor and the county attorney of the county in which the governmental unit is situated and the public accountant shall also furnish a copy of the report of audit upon completion to said officers. The county attorney shall act on such report in the same manner as required by law for reports made to the county attorney by the state auditor.
What type of financial concern will the OSA review?
Each year, the OSA receives about 1,000 questions and concerns about local government finances, including reports of possible misuse of public resources. The Legal/Special Investigations Division of the OSA considers whether a financial concern about a local government involves a violation of a state law, rule or an accounting standard. Common issues include concerns about competitive bidding, conflict of interest and the possible theft of public funds or property. The Office of the State Auditor cannot get involved in matters that are in litigation.
What are possible results of an OSA review?
- Referral to the appropriate agency or entity with jurisdiction;
- Answer provided to a general financial question;
- Review conducted during the next financial audit;
- Review conducted and recommendations forwarded orally or in writing to the local government;
- Proceed with a formal investigation and issue a final report;
- Decline review because issue is outside the authority of the OSA or because a determination has been made that a review is not warranted.
Does the OSA grant confidentiality and access to review files?
The identity of local government employees and officials reporting a possible theft of public funds or property to the OSA in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 609.456 is considered not public information.
In addition, information provided to the OSA during a review or investigation is considered not public information while the review or investigative process is taking place. An OSA review file becomes accessible to the public when the review or investigation is completed and allowed by law. However, certain information within a completed review file may still be considered not public information. See, for example, Minnesota Statute § 6.715 (“Data that could reasonably be used to determine the identity of an individual supplying data pursuant to section 609.456 are private.”); see also Minnesota Statute § 13.43 (personnel data), Minnesota Statute § 13.35 (federal contracts data), and Minnesota Statute §§ 13.462, 13.46 (benefit data or welfare data). The not public information will not be accessible to the public.
How to Report
Members of the Public: A member of the public may submit a financial concern about a local government to the OSA by email, letter, or by phone. Click here for a form you can fill out online and either e-mail to our office or download, print, fill out and mail to us. The form will guide you in what information we need (pdf). It is helpful if copies of documents supporting the financial concern are attached to any submission.
Local Government Officials and Employees: Local government officials and employees must submit written notification to the OSA when they are aware of evidence of the possible theft of public funds or property. This written notification may be submitted by email or letter. Click here for a form you can fill out online and either e-mail to our office or download, print, fill out and mail to us. The form will guide you in what information we need (pdf). The mandatory notification should specify the facts of the incident, whether law enforcement has been notified, and whether any internal control changes have been implemented.
Public accountants may contact the OSA orally or in writing about evidence of financial misconduct on the part of a local government official or employee.
How do I contact the OSA with concerns?
Call 651-296-4717 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the OSA's general contact information?
Address: Office of the State Auditor
525 Park Street, Suite 500
St. Paul, MN 55103
Office Number: 651-296-2551
Fax Number: 651-296-4755