A Miami Township elected official for nearly seven months after taking office failed to obtain a legally required insurance policy that protects taxpayers if she were found to have misspent money, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.
Miami Township Fiscal Officer Ann Culp, who assumed office on April 1, on Tuesday applied for a required $250,000 public official bond through the township’s insurance provider. The previous day, the Dayton Daily News made a public records request about the matter.
Holding a bond, a sort of insurance policy that pays for misspending by public officials in exchange for a monthly premium, is a requirement of Ohio’s elected officials. A bond must be obtained before taking office, and an elected official who neglects or refuses to get a bond “is deemed to have refused to accept the office,” according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Bob Hinkle, chief deputy auditor for the Ohio Auditor’s Office, said bonds offer financial protection for taxpayers. Township fiscal officers are required to get larger bonds than other township officials — for comparison, Miami Township trustees all hold $1,000 bonds — because they work directly with township funds.
Culp, 47, has a background in accounting and finance and is responsible for managing the finances for Miami Township, which has a budget of roughly $21.5 million. She said Wednesday that she wasn’t aware that she needed to apply for a bond until township staff gave her an application “several weeks ago.”
“Probably (seven) months is too long, but I thought several weeks ago it was done. I’m a little bit disappointed that the staff didn’t onboard me correctly back in April,” said Culp, who was elected last November in her first run for office.
She began filling out the bond application form when she received it, but stopped in order to determine whether she had to report a 1986 personal bankruptcy that has since disappeared from her credit history, she said. Insurance companies use factors like bankruptcies to set premium rates on bonds.
Culp said she told a staff member to mark the box on the form acknowledging the bankruptcy and mail it in. She had since then been under the mistaken impression the application was taken care of, she said.
“It’s there to help insure that there’s some safety over the funds and the activities that the fiscal officer is responsible for,” said Hinkle, commenting generally on bonds and not any specific situation.
Township trustee Mike Nolan said he’s glad Culp finally applied for a bond. He wasn’t aware that she didn’t have one until township staff informed him recently, he said.
Both Nolan and Culp said the fact that Culp went so long without a bond illustrates problems with the township’s internal policies.
“It has opened a process improvement area,” Culp said.
“I believe she should have been bonded first of April, so it looks like we have some housekeeping to do,” Nolan said.
But, Nolan added, “I don’t believe we should blame our employees. That’s not their problem.”
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