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July 6, 2013

State audit: No issues found in Garrett County Register of Wills office

$376,763 collected in fiscal 2012

OAKLAND — A state audit report found no problems at the Garrett County Office of the Register of Wills. “I’m thrilled ... I’m so proud of that audit,” said Rita L. Watson, who was initially appointed to the position of Register of Wills in July 2009. Watson has worked in the office for 34 years.

“We’re very diligent in our duties and we are careful to adhere to all the laws and procedures. We have a very good staff and we work together as a team,” Watson said.

 The audit was no mere formality, with auditors reviewing receipts, documents and filing dates for five weeks, Watson said. “They go through everything and leave no stone unturned,” Watson said.

The register’s office oversees handling of estates and wills in Garrett County. The audit covered March 22, 2010, to May 12, 2013, according to auditors.

“According to the records of the Office of the Register of Wills for Garrett County, its fiscal year 2012 gross receipts totaled $376,763, which consisted of inheritance tax collections (net of commissions) of $253,678 and fees and commissions of $123,085. The office’s fiscal year 2012 operating expenses totaled $369,643,” according to the report.

Those funds were handled properly, according to the audit results.

“Our audit did not disclose any significant deficiencies in the design or operation of the office’s internal control. Nor did our audit disclose any significant instances of noncompliance with applicable laws, rules or regulations,” according to the audit. The audit was performed by the Office of Legislative Audits of the Department of Legislative Services for the Maryland General Assembly.

The inheritance taxes collected by the office are sent to the state’s general fund. The fees and commissions collected are used to finance the office’s operating expenses.

“Generally, the remaining balance of fees and commissions is periodically remitted to the Comptroller of Maryland to finance other operating expenses (such as payroll) that the comptroller pays on behalf of the offices. ... The offices’ fees and commissions that exceed their operating expenses are credited to the general fund,” the report stated.

Most state and county agencies are audited about once every three years. If there are negative findings, the agency is provided an opportunity to respond. Because the audit made no findings, no response is required by the register of wills, the audit report stated.

After her appointment, Watson won election to the office in 2010. She’s already filed for the 2014 election. Watson succeeded Joseph DiSimone, who she worked with for 30 years. “I worked for him my whole career,” Watson said. “He’s a really nice guy.” In fact, DiSimone is serving as Watson’s campaign treasurer.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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