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CBS12 News Investigates discovers issues with state’s unclaimed money fund

(MGN)

There are billions of dollars in unclaimed money sitting in state coffers waiting for someone to claim it.

But collecting the money can be very difficult.

It’s even hard for local governments to collect unclaimed funds when they can easily prove who they are.

CBS12 News Investigates found the state is not giving money back to the proper municipalities, in part because of poor bookkeeping, and the state won’t fix the problem.

We discovered this problem when we checked with Palm Beach County to see if they received the nearly one million dollars its owed in unclaimed funds.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche was stunned to learn the county was owed a small fortune in unclaimed funds when we told him about the money in February.

Eight months ago CBS12 News Investigates took our questions to Florida's Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, who is in charge of the unclaimed money fund.

"We can't make people take the money they're owed," Patronis said.

The state told us the five counties in our area were owed more than a million dollars.

Most of the money comes from businesses paying back unused funds and late or overpaid tax payments.

Palm Beach County's total was more than $890,000.

CBS12 News Investigates recently checked with county leaders to see if they received the money owed, and their answer surprised us.

“A lot of time what's on the list of unclaimed property, is not accurate,” said Shannon Chessman, Chief Operating Officer of Finance for the Clerk and Comptroller’s Office of Palm Beach County.

Chessman said most the money the state says belong to the clerk’s office doesn't really belong to them.

The poor bookkeeping happens when the state runs the numbers and pulls everything with ‘Palm Beach County' in the title.

But the county's budget is separate from the school district's budget, which is separate from the tax assessor's budget, and so on.

And even though the state has a breakdown of unclaimed money in the various departments within the county, they lump all the money together.

According to Chessman, the state knows it's an issue, yet year after year, it continues to happen.

CBS12 News Investigates contacted Patronis.

He would not acknowledge there's an issue.

So we reached out to the two lead candidates for governor, Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis, to see if they will fix the problem if elected.

Neither would speak to us about the issue.

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