Commissioners spending to retrieve info

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners are spending up to $500 in an attempt to retrieve information from the office computer used by former county Treasurer Nick Barborak.

County Auditor Nancy Milliken confirmed commissioners issued the purchase order so she can hire a firm to retrieve information from the crashed computer’s hard drive. Milliken believe she has found a local firm that will do the work for less than $500.

The action is being taken to satisfy public records requests filed by county Republican Party Chairman David Johnson and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett. They are seeking, among other things, any emails between Barborak and current Treasurer Linda Bolon, both of whom are Democrats.

Bolon was elected treasurer last year after Barborak opted to run for state representative. Both won and took office in January.

Bolon was glad to learn commissioners had taken action in regard to the hard drive. “I’m pleased to hear that. That would be helpful to know what’s on that computer,” she said.

Barborak’s computer has become part of the controversy over a $5 million investment account in the treasurer’s office. Bolon reported in March she inherited a bookkeeping problem with the account that resulted in county investment income being overstated by $118,770. During the course of correcting the problem, she discovered several illegal investments were made.

Bolon was unable to fully comply with the public records requests that followed because Barborak’s desktop computer had crashed in mid 2012 and it was junked after several in-house attempts to resurrect the hard drive failed. After the computer was located by Milliken, commissioners decided to retrieve the data, provided it was not too costly, and asked her to do that for them.

Meanwhile, Bolon said she complied with Bennett’s request as best as possible, providing him with nearly 2,000 pages of documents at a cost of $356, which included shipping. She had already complied with Johnson’s request before that.

Bolon said her review is still ongoing, and she is now in the process of trying to confirm each investment, including working with the local bank that handled the investments to locate missing investment confirmation documents.

During the course of her review, Bolon said she has come across a total of five more illegal investments because they exceeded the time limits set by law, bringing the total number of illegal investments to eight.

She said another 12 investments were in financial instruments that required the county treasurer to have additional training, which Barborak did not.

“This is all subject to the state auditor’s review and interpretation. I’m just passing this on to them,” Bolon said.

The state auditor’s office was in the process of performing a routine audit of the county 2012’s books when the investment controversy became public, and the examiners are now are taking a specific look at the investment account as part of the audit.