The Village of Bethel has undergone some major financial setbacks over the past few years and an audit released by Auditor of State Mary Taylor Feb. 18 describes in detail a shortfall of $481,396.
Poor accounting practices and mismanagement of funds dating back to 2006 have put the village’s general fund in the red. Former village administrator Mike Shiverski and former fiscal clerk Clarissa McCoy were responsible for many of the discrepancies in accounting.
According to administrator Travis Dotson, since no funds were taken and it was just a matter of incompetence, the village cannot press charges against the two. Their bonds which would cover some issues, do not cover the incompetencies.
Mary Taylor cited former clerk of the village mayor's court, Laurie Taylor, as collecting, but not depositing a total of $13,258. In August 2009, Laurie Taylor pleaded guilty to one count of theft in office and has been sentenced to five years probation and community service as a result of her actions.
"Public officials must be held accountable for the tax dollars they manage," said Mary Taylor. "Good financial controls will help safeguard the village of Bethel and communities like it against the theft and misuse of taxpayer money. We will work with the village of Bethel officials to ensure they take steps to prevent fraud and reduce their risk of theft in the future."
The lack of management control over payroll and benefit policies has also resulted in more than $12,000 in salary and benefit overpayments, according to the findings. The missing and misspent funds must be repaid to the village. Some of the money has been repaid, but a good portion is still outstanding.
In addition, the village has tightened its belt by trimming personnel in the police department, freezing village employees wages and salaries and eliminating all unnecessary spending.
According to the report, "utility ordinances were confusing, approved rates were not properly applied, deposits were not timely made, (there were) no reconciliations between system reports and bank deposits and no written policies were in place to handle adjustment and penalty waivers."
In some instances invoice dates preceded purchase order dates, no appropriation measure was passed in 2006, appropriations exceeded total estimated resources in 2007 and negative fund balances were noted in four funds in 2006 and five funds in 2007. The report further states that numerous adjustments had to be made to put monies in the correct funds and transfers were made from funds other than the General Fund illegally. A levy was established by the village for current operating expenses but levy monies were placed in Grant Memorial and Burke Park special revenue funds contrary to the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code that the levy was established under.
The findings further noted that meeting minutes were missing from the minute book and many of the committees were not keeping minutes of their meetings for a record.
"We are glad to have finally reached this point," said Dotson. "We have made many changes over the last two-year period and we will continue to function in as lean a fashion as possible while still providing a service to our community."
"The administrator and fiscal officer appointed in March and May of 2008, respectively, brought local government experience and the village is confident the next audit will result in fewer comments and findings," said Mary Taylor.
The village electronic accounting records were converted to the uniform accounting network system in September 2008, bringing the records into compliance with state controls and policies.
A request by the village for a fiscal analysis has been sent to the state and a team is currently going through the process. A report is expected from the team about April 1 and a fiscal declaration may be forthcoming from the analysis.