City of Clayton flagged on state audit, three forced to repay funds

The 2021 state audit of the city of Clayton that was released last week included three related findings for recovery of misspent money, all of which have been, or are in the process of being resolved.

City Manager Amanda Zimmerlin and city employee Evan Sluterbeck were hired by the city of Clayton in 2020 and enrolled in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, however the city did not with withhold the required employee contribution from their paychecks nor remit any employee/employer withholdings to OPERS, the audit states. As a result, the city incurred interest and penalty fees for delinquent contributions.

The audit found that the city paid $5,636 in interest and penalties on delinquent payroll withholding to OPERS pertaining to the pair. Under Ohio law, paying interest and penalty fees with public funds is improper.

A finding for recovery of $5,636 was issued against Clayton city finance director Kevin Schweitzer and his bonding company. On July 12, Schweitzer repaid the city.

According to the city’s response to the state auditor, the OPERS oversights occurred “during the employment of an assistant to the finance director that was employed a short time and was still learning the financial software system.” In Zimmerlin’s case, the city said it happened as employees had just started working remotely due to the COVID pandemic, and new processes “had to be created to keep the city operating to its best efforts.”

The city also noted that “Ohio Public Employees Retirement System failed to notify, as required, the city that active employees were not receiving remittances during the entire period.”

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For Zimmerlin, on May 19, 2022, the city of Clayton remitted to OPERS employee contributions of $22,176.93 and employer contributions of $31,047.71, covering March 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021. Additionally, the city remitted employee/employer contributions for Sluterbeck in the amounts of $492.31 and $689.23.

The auditor issued findings for recovery against Zimmerlin and Schweitzer, for the $22,176 in employee contributions the city sent for Zimmerlin. A separate finding for recovery was issued against Sluterbeck and Schweitzer, for his $492 in employee contributions.

According to the audit, both employees are now in the process of making repayment for those amounts, to resolve the auditor’s finding.

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Zimmerlin said Monday the error was unintentional and that the employee responsible no longer works for the city, though she denied that was a result of the mishap.

“When made aware of the error during the city’s regularly scheduled audit in 2022, the city took all the required steps to immediately correct the oversight,” Zimmerlin said. “Clayton continues to be considered one of the highest ranked public financial departments in the state of Ohio, and this finding of recovery demonstrates the benefit of a clear and transparent auditing process.”

Zimmerlin said there are controls in place to ensure this mistake does not happen, including regular reviews of payroll system information. She said an additional safeguard was added after the audit.

“At month end, a comparison is (now) done of all active employees to ensure the OPERS, Ohio Police and Fire Retirement or FICA is being withheld before remittances to the respective retirement systems are made,” she said.

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