One Orange Township trustee believes recently discovered financial improprieties in the zoning department are symptomatic of a more systemic problem.
Orange Township Trustee Lisa Knapp said recently that the firing of former zoning inspector Tom Farahay, who is under investigation for theft in office, tampering with records and forgery, is evidence of a “clear lack of internal controls in our fiscal practices and procedures.”
“It’s obvious something is being covered up,” she said.
But the township’s three other elected officials have characterized Knapp’s accusations as an attempt to boost her political fortunes as she heads toward her first re-election campaign in November.
“It’s an election year. We all know that she’s always been after the fiscal office,” said Trustee Rob Quigley.
Fiscal Officer Joel Spitzer, who has frequently clashed with Knapp during her time in office, said that she – as a liaison to the zoning office and a former assistant in the department — should have been aware of any financial improprieties.
“Mrs. Knapp is not engaged in the process. She’s not engaged in the day-to-day operations of the township,” he said. “If anyone should have caught it, she should have.”
Both Quigley and Spitzer called on Knapp to produce evidence of any deeper problems in the township.
“If there’s proof, fine,” said Quigley. “Bring it forward. Tell us where the cover-up is.”
Knapp has called for a special audit into the township’s finances.
“This is a wake-up call to our residents that Orange Township has big problems, and I’m not going to stick my head in the sand while the other elected officials try to cover up the situation,” she said. “I’m asking that the Attorney General and Auditor of State do a special fraud investigation of Orange Township.”
Farahay, who was fired last week, was accused by township officials of “falsification of records, stealing cash for personal benefit and submitting false reports and receipts to the fiscal officer.”
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the matter. No charges have been filed.
Theft in office and forgery are both fifth-degree felonies. Tampering with records is a third-degree felony.
The extent of Farahay’s alleged theft is unknown, Knapp said.