Scars left by disgraced clerk Kimberly Green’s shocking theft of $677,000 from South Amherst taxpayers are still raw.
“The wounds are healing slowly, half as fast really, as we’d like. But they’re still there,” said mayor Dave Leshinski.
On Jan. 30, Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost’s office released documents chiding the village for its failure to be vigilant with public funds.
An audit of the books from 2014 and 2015 found “a certain deficiency in internal control,” which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with Green’s case. Or as Leshinski put it, “If you want to point fingers, they came out with their conclusions and more or less knew where the breakdown was.”
The 55-year-old Green, whose duties included paying the village’s expenses, admitted last July to writing checks to herself, as much as $30,000 on some days, according to councilwoman Donna Hauck.
Green would then walk across the street to the gas station where she also worked, cash the checks, and buy Ohio Lottery tickets.
At some point, there was so little money left in the bank that the bills weren’t being covered. That’s when South Amherst police got involved.
Green was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to work her entire life to pay back what she stole.
The audit found the village broke the law by spending more than allowed from its general fund, to a tune of $34,205 in 2015 and $244,960 in 2014.
Another $1,724 was spent from its cemetery fund without proper authorization in 2014, and $102,697 went missing from street and capital projects funds over the two-year period.
South Amherst may be a defendant in several lawsuits, the audit said, but the resolution of those matters is unlikely to further hurt the village’s financial condition.
There were two checks in 2014 written in Green’s name that at first failed to raise flags. They were noted in the audit.
During her time in office, records were ignored. Now the village is using new software, keeping purchase orders and invoice as required by state law, and balancing bank statements on a regular basis.
Checks previously required just one signature. In a post-Green era, they need two.
Another issue: South Amherst failed in 2014 to provide a tax budget to the Lorain County auditor’s office, further breaking state law.
Again, that fell on Green’s head: “Theft in office was just one of many issues. Filing timely reports fell by the wayside and council was unaware,” wrote new fiscal officer Jeanne Maschari, who is “asking for more involvement from the mayor and council, and making them more aware by providing monthly management reports.”
But Green wasn’t behind all of South Amherst’s money problems.
The audit also criticized the village for failing to properly write purchase orders.
Charles E. Harris and Associates, which prepared the audit for the state, tested 108 transactions from the audit period and discovered six didn’t have invoices or any form of documentation about where the money went.
Those totaled $20,622 in “legal, regular annual payments” for summer games at the South Amherst recreation department as well as payments for paving of Quarry Road.
“Village staff clearly did not understand the purchase order process and it was a huge effort to implement correct procedures,” local officials replied. “We have since made significant progress in training all employees on the purpose and use of requisitions and purchase orders.”
The recent audit noted that the situation has been fully corrected under Maschari.
Now the village government has the hard job of reclaiming its credibility with residents.
“It’s still in their memory, what happened,” Leshinski said. “But we try to reassure them that the pothole in the road is going to be taken care of, that there will be a requisition form filled out, a procedure followed, that it’s going to be done the right way. There’s a system of checks of balances.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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