The Ohio Auditor of State’s Office gave a clean audit to Orange Township Tuesday, despite multiple allegations by a township trustee.
Joel Spitzer, township fiscal officer, said township Trustee Lisa Knapp had sent several emails to the Ohio Auditor of State alleging fraud, theft and misuse of funds.
The allegations against the township were all investigated, according to Spitzer. He maintains the initial quote for the audit was about 40 hours of work at a cost of about $6,000.
“By the time this thing was finished, it was about $30,000 and about 350 hours of work,” he said.
“On our initial meeting, Rob Quigley (trustee) and I met with the auditors,” Spitzer said. “We were shown a stack of emails that were printed and were pretty thick. From what I understand there were about 300 allegations.”
Spitzer said the auditor conducting the audit got to a point where, “She told us it’s been 10 months of chasing geese and we were done.”
Spitzer said that the amount paid the auditing firm wasn’t the true cost of the audit. “It doesn’t include every department head pulling every document after document to dispel some of these allegations.” he said.
Spitzer estimated the total cost of complying with the audit around $75,000.
Knapp said 99 percent of fraud is not found during regular audits.
“This was not a fraud audit. This was not a special audit. My investigations have found hundreds of issues,” she said. “I’m calling for a special audit, a fraud audit, but the other trustees won’t approve it.”
Scott Overturf is owner of RPO LLC, and is an independent contractor hired by the township to help write grants and represent the township in overseeing projects from design to completion.
Spitzer said many of Knapp’s allegations of fraud centered around Overturf and those allegations were the most closely scrutinized.
“The State Auditor themselves said they really wanted to look at the documents and contracts for RPO,” he said. “That was thoroughly vetted and again came back as no intention of misuse, fraud or theft.”
“I’m definitely glad it’s over,” Spitzer said. “We are really, really, really trying to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”
Knapp said she thought the $30,000 was well spent because it “trained the township how to manage finances,” she said. “Joel Spitzer is an incompetent fiscal officer.”
Knapp added, “I’m the only watchdog in the township. It’s all because of me.”
From the auditor’s report: “The results of our test disclosed no instances of noncompliance or matters we must report under Government auditing Standards.”
However the township did receive a Management Letter with four comments and three non-compliance citations. The three citations are:
• Contracts and Bidding Procedures.
Management should ensure execution of all required bidding and contractual payment processes occurs consistently. Documentation of such procedures should be maintained.
• Appropriations Exceeded Estimated Resources.
Management should ensure proper budgetary procedures are in place to avoid such noncompliance.
• Classification of Fund Balances.
Balances should be properly classified based on Governmental Accounting Standards Board.
Dominic Binkley, State Auditor’s Office public information officer, said in an email to The Gazette, “If the items in the management letter are not corrected and occur again in subsequent audits, then they could be elevated and included in the audit report.”
Trustee Deb Taranto said the management letter is a great learning tool and a way to ensure the township’s finances are being vetted by an outside source.
“They advise on areas to improve on in a management letter,” said Taranto. “They show us what went well and passed compliance and they show us areas where we can improve or correct the way it’s done.”
Trustee Rob Quigley said the audit was “refreshing and appalling at the same time.”
“Overall, we did a good job. The important thing is we have no findings for recovery as expected, even with all the misguided allegations from Trustee Knapp,” he said.
Quigley said that some of the items recommended in the management letter were already in the process of improving.
Quigley said he was hoping to move on and focus on what is important, ensuring the township is financially stable and a viable community.
“Let me be clear, none of her allegations to the auditor directly created a better process,” Quigley said. “It only cost the taxpayers more money. The harassment by Trustee Knapp of the employees and other elected officials needs to end.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.