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University of Iowa Corrects Cash, Ticket Handling for Hawkeye Express

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - The University of Iowa has changed the way it handles tickets and cash associated with its Hawkeye Express train after discovering an "unexplained drop" in revenue during the 2011 season.

The UI also recently terminated athletic department accountant Kathleen Willier, but UI spokesman Tom Moore said "the university does not know if that same person is responsible for the missing funds associated with the Hawkeye Express."

Willier, who has been an accountant in the athletics department since 2005 and a UI employee since 1982, was terminated Nov. 6 "due to unsatisfactory job performance," according to Moore.

She was let go for "failing to follow proper cash handling procedures," according to Moore. Willier could not be reached for comment.

UI police are investigating the missing funds and whether criminal activity was involved.

An audit of the popular Hawkeye Express, which has been taking fans to UI football games from Coralville since 2004, was performed last year to review cash handling procedures, make sure ticket sales are appropriately reconciled and determine the root cause of the 2011 revenue drop.

The audit revealed that deposits of game day train ticket revenue were not always made on time and in connection with a specific game, contributing to about $66,000 or two games worth of missing train revenue in 2011.

That year, ridership increased to 4,392 from 4,381 in 2010 while average revenue per game dropped to $20,000 from nearly $30,000 in 2010, according to the Dec. 19 audit report. Auditors identified only five deposits for the seven home football games in 2011, the report states.

An athletics department accountant said some deposits included several games, but the accountant "could not identify which games were combined into single deposits and no deposit amounts supported the assertion of combined deposits," according to the report.

The last deposit of the 2011 season, for example, was made two days before the last home game of the year, according to the audit.

Going forward, auditors advised the UI to make sure deposits are made on time and identified by game. An internal audit verified that deposits were made according to those recommendations for each 2013 home football game.

Auditors also found fault with how Hawkeye Express cash and tickets were transferred to non-university entities. They were not consistently or well documented, and the audit suggested the UI employ an armored car service to ensure cash and ticket transfers are documented, insured and guaranteed.

For the 2013 football season, the UI contracted with Rochester Armored Car to transport cash and tickets on game days. UI officials said they plan to hire an armored car company again next season, according to the audit report.

Among its other recommendations, the audit advised the UI document all unused tickets, something that didn't happen previously, and require all employees with cash handling duties to complete annual cash handling training.

The athletic department implemented the audit recommendations, improving the "cash handing control environment for Hawkeye Express revenue," according to the report.

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