State auditor finds multiple problems at Jefferson Township

Jefferson Township offices. Staff photo/Lynn Hulsey
Jefferson Township offices. Staff photo/Lynn Hulsey

Ohio Auditor Keith Faber issued multiple findings against Jefferson Twp. in an audit covering the years 2016-2018, including improper use of road, fire and lighting funds to pay salaries of trustees and the fiscal officer.

The audit released last week included no findings for recovery of money, but it did include six findings related to financial statements, 26 non-compliance findings on a variety of procedures, practices and payments and 10 additional recommendations on top of those made in the findings.

“It’s difficult to compare since no two townships are alike, however, the number of report-level and management-level comment is large on this particular audit,” said Allison Dumski, press secretary for Faber. “We suggested the township consider an annual audit for the next few periods, and they seem agreeable to this plan.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Road money used to pay part of Jefferson Twp. Trustees

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A September investigation by the Dayton Daily News found that trustees and the fiscal officer did not properly certify that they did road work. That paperwork is required for the use of taxpayer-approved road levy money.

RELATED: Critics say township should spend money on roads, not salaries

Fiscal Officer Tracey M. Edwards said Administrator Steven A. Woolf in 2017 had her begin paying elected officials from the road fund rather than the general fund. Edwards said none of the elected officials filed the correct paperwork in 2017.

Jefferson Twp. Fiscal Officer Tracey Edwards
Jefferson Twp. Fiscal Officer Tracey Edwards

The next year she and Trustee Jim McGuire filed the correct paperwork, Trustee President Roy Mann filed it intermittently and Trustee M. Michael McLaughlin turned in no paperwork.

Jefferson Twp. Trustee M. Michael McLaughlin
Jefferson Twp. Trustee M. Michael McLaughlin

In an interview in September, McLaughlin said he did file the forms but stuck them in a filing cabinet. But on Tuesday he said he “wasn’t taught” to file the forms and so did not. He said the township should have withheld his paycheck to get his attention on the matter.

Mann said he hadn’t read the audit and had no comment. Woolf did not respond to a request for comment. McGuire and Edwards both said the township will work on changes to make sure it is in compliance for future audits.

Jefferson Twp. Trustee Roy Mann
Jefferson Twp. Trustee Roy Mann

“I was not surprised by the large number of errors in this audit and expected to see it. There is no dispute we need to update our policies procedure and follow them,” McGuire said. “Although there are a large number of findings, no laws were broken and no money was missing.”

The audit found that $32,034 was improperly charged to road and bridge, fire and lighting funds in 2017 and 2018. It did not look at 2019 but the newspaper investigation found that the practice had continued into this year.

Jefferson Twp. Trustee Jim McGuire
Jefferson Twp. Trustee Jim McGuire

Aware that the audit finding was pending, the township on Nov. 20 adjusted its fund balances to properly pay elected officials out of the General Fund. The audit also found that pay for Township Administrator Woolf and two other employees’ pay had not been charged to the correct funds. Those mistakes were corrected on Nov. 20 as well, the audit said.

The audit also found the township improperly paid attorney fees from the road and bridge funds and motor vehicle license tax.

Comments made in the audit by Edwards and the trustees show disagreement over whose fault it is that the township did not follow proper accounting procedures, documentation and state laws.

Trustees are paid $12,478 annually and the fiscal officer is paid $21,836. The township budget this year is $3.34 million, according to budget documents.

Voters in November approved a 5.5-mill continuing levy for fire and EMS services but have not approved additional money for roads, bridges or the general fund since 2001.

RELATED: Trotwood, Jefferson Twp. discuss possible joint fire district

The audit found nine instances of the trustees holding executive sessions, which are closed to the public, that violated state law governing what subjects can be discussed, how the meetings are handled and documentation of the votes. In one case, the trustees went into an executive session on Sept. 22, 2016, for “breaks and smoking,” which is not allowed under state law.

Faber also said the township:

— Had not corrected some problems found in a 2015 audit.

— Did not promptly file, retain and maintain for public inspection minutes of meetings as required by state law.

— Lacked proper controls over the budgetary process and needed to adopt procedures to verify that estimated resources could cover costs.

— Did not properly audit or require itemized receipts for credit-card purchases by township employees.

— Broke the state’s political-activity law by discussing upcoming levies and campaigns at meetings and displaying fliers in the township administration building that encouraged voters to approve four township levies in 2018.

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