State cites officials for getting paid to attend illegal meetings

ROGERS – The ghost of Christmas past came back to haunt six current and former village council members who were cited by the state for getting paid to attend illegal meetings held in December 2010 and 2011.

The council members repaid the $30 to $60 they were over paid, as have the former village mayor and former clerk-treasurer who were also cited for being overpaid in the report released last Tuesday by the Ohio State Auditor’s Office.

The routine state audit of village books, which covered 2010 and 2011, included individual findings for recovery totaling $610 against the eight officials. All of the money was repaid before the release of the audit report.

Council members are paid $30 per meeting and meet monthly, unless there an emergency session is needed. Past practice had been for council to hold its December meeting and then adjourn to share a covered dish holiday meal. Immediately afterwards, council would convene a second meeting to wrap up business for the year, resulting in the members being paid $60 for that day instead of $30.

It is illegal to hold two meetings the same day, a fact village officials said they were unaware of at the time.

Although that is not what the audit says specifically occurred, village officials acknowledged earlier in the year the state forewarned them the practice violated the law and they would likely be cited when the report was released.

The former and current council members repaid the following amounts: Sharon Hebron, current mayor, $60; Jerry Hoon, $60; Mark Gordon, $60; Delsey McDade, $30; Jayne Balmenti, $30; and Marilyn Locke, $30.

Former Mayor Delores Silverthorn also repaid $150 after the audit determined she had been paid $1,950 in 2010 by the clerk-treasurer instead of the $1,800 she was due.

The audit also concluded that former Clerk-Treasurer (a position now known as fiscal officer) Katrina Moore was over paid by $190 after council accepted her resignation at its April 11, 2011, meeting but paid her for the entire month. Moore repaid the money in September.

The audit report also included non-compliance citations for poor bookkeeping.

For example, the former clerk-treasurer improperly spent money from several restricted accounts on village expenses that should have been paid with funds from other accounts.

The practice continued after the new fiscal officer took over in 2011, with money from the motor vehicle license and gas tax spent on expenses that should have been covered with money from general fund and street construction fund. The improper transactions reduced the general fund from $3,397 to $788.

Things were in such disarray in 2010 that the state Local Government Services division stepped in to help straighten out the books. The clerk listed a total fund balance of $36,575, which dropped to $16,583 when the state completed reconciling the books.

Mayor’s court, which was dissolved this year by council, also came under scrutiny in the audit report.

The stated noted that $1,375 in the court’s computer fund was used on village expenses other than what is allowed.

The village also failed to pay the state its share of mayor’s court fees and fines, with no record of any payments being made from April through December 2011. As a result, the report recommends the village pay the state treasurer’s office $780 for April through June 2011.

As for the operation of mayor’s court itself, the state requested tickets issued for the two years but were given 133 tickets for 2010 only. The report said it does not know if any tickets are missing, although the record indicated some 2011 tickets were unaccounted for.

Fines, licenses and permits totaled $14,982 over the two-year period, but, according to the audit, the “lack of controls over the traffic citations and lack of support could result in the village not getting the revenue that is due them.”

Still, all things considered, the audit was not nearly as bad as the previous two-year audit, when the state declared Rogers’ financial records for 2008-09 were “unauditable” due to lack of documentation. The village still owes the state $50,000 for routine audits going back to the mid 2000s.

The latest report comes at a time when village council is considering placing a referendum on the ballot for voters to decide whether the town of 237 residents should be dissolved and become part of Middleton Township.