Perkins fiscal officer, challenger run on their records

PERKINS TWP. Both the incumbent and challenger in the Perkins Township fiscal officer race have a record to stand on.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

PERKINS TWP.

Both the incumbent and challenger in the Perkins Township fiscal officer race have a record to stand on.

At a recent public forum, incumbent Pamela Hartung Kellem challenged the public to review her track record in office versus opponent Diane Schaefer's.

The township fiscal officer is the records keeper and accountant of the township's finances. This year concludes Kellem's first term in the office. Schaefer was clerk from Aug. 2, 1983, through March 31, 1992.

The state auditor's office audits township books biannually. The audits are public record and are meant to help the fiscal officer and township trustees improve their protocols and record-keeping accuracy.

Here are the results of audits completed while each candidate was in office.

Audits for Diane Schaefer

1984-1986

* The state auditor suggested forming a finance committee to oversee the clerk's recording keeping.

Cash:

* Review of the bank activity, canceled checks and cash on hand at the cash count date revealed several procedures that created the possibility for errors or irregularities to occur, including:

-- Voided checks not defaced by tearing off the signature block. These voided checks when replaced by reissued checks were not recorded on a historical listing.

-- Checks outstanding were carried for more than three years

-- Several checks that were voided had been signed by the trustees prior to being completely filled out.

-- Cash on hand as of the cash count date included cash and several personal checks for cemetery deeds (some dated three months earlier) that had not been recorded in the township receipt book.

Receipts:

While tracing receipts from the township's receipt ledger to the confirmation of receipts and duplicate receipts it was noted that:

1. Auditor and treasurer's fees deducted from the county tax district for real estate taxes collected were not on either the receipt's ledger as revenue or the expenditure ledger as an expense.

2. Zoning permits issued for the receipt of zoning fees were numbered as used.

3. Zoning fees were used to pay for postage expense.

* These weaknesses could allow township funds to be diverted for personal use without being detected in a timely manner.

Purchase orders:

* The review of outstanding purchase orders as of Dec. 31, 1986, revealed several purchase orders issued more than two years earlier were still open.

Property and Equipment:

* The price and date were not recorded for new purchases.

Lighting district clerk compensation:

* A clerical error was found in calculating the clerk's compensation for preparing lighting assessments. The result was a $15 overpayment to the clerk in 1986.

1987-1988

* The audit again suggested formation of a finance committee to oversee the clerk's record keeping.

* The general fund and gasoline tax fund were found to have appropriations in excess of the amount certified as available by the budget commission, which is a violation of Ohio law.

1989-1990

* The audit again suggested formation of a finance committee to oversee the clerk's record keeping.

Noncompliance citations:

* The general fund, along with the motor vehicle license tax, gasoline, road and bridge, federal revenue sharing, fire levy and general note retirement funds had appropriations in excess of the amount certified available by the budget commission.

* Monies were not deposited once every 24 consecutive hours. Schaefer made deposits approximately every two weeks. In some instances checks were held several months before being deposited. Several stale-dated checks were returned to the township, and the clerk had not obtained replacement checks, resulting in an asset loss to the township.

* The township paid for a lease agreement for radios and pagers from the note retirement fund rather than the general and road and bridge funds as required. As a result, the fund balance was insufficient to pay the snow plow note obligations due in 1990.

Other reportable conditions included:

* The township's State Treasurer's Investment Pool was overdrawn several times between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 1990.

* Duplicate receipts were issued at the time deposits were prepared. This could result in checks being lost and remaining undetected. Also, errors or irregularities could go undetected.

* Stale checks totaled $484 as of Dec. 31, 1989, and $488 as of Dec. 31, 1990, resulting in a net loss to the township.

* Monies collected by the zoning department and deposited for the period July 1 through Dec. 31, 1990, were not posted to the cash book until Dec. 31. As a result revenues available for expenditure were understated.

* Some ambulance billings were made several months after the date of service, and all revenues collected were deposited several months after the check issue date. As a result several checks were stale-dated and returned by the bank. Replacement checks were requested, but in some cases clients had died and their estates had been closed by Probate Court.

* The records for employees' vacation, compensatory, personal and sick leave were reconstructed for audit by the clerk. Schaefer informed the auditor the township's software system created an excess number of hours. The auditor said the software should be corrected or records should be kept manually and updated at each pay period to reflect accurate leave balances.

1991-1992

Schaefer left office in March 1992, so the entire audit does not apply to her.

Non Compliance

* Another citation was given for failure to deposit monies received within the time period prescribed by law. This caused a loss of $451 for the township in stale-dated checks that were not replaced.

Looking back on her tenure as clerk, Schaefer said she realizes she was trying to do too much by herself. Now there is additional office staff to help with matters such as EMS billing.

"At no time did I ever do anything that I felt was detrimental to the township," she said. "It was always with their best interest at heart."

As for the checks not deposited in the required time, Schaefer said at times she felt there were more pressing matters to handle than depositing the checks.

She also said she did not feel it was necessary to file an amended certificate with the county auditor if the new amount of money was not going to spent.

Audit for Pamela Hartung Kellem:

A second audit of Kellem's record keeping was recently completed by the state auditor's office but will not be available until after the election.

2003-2004

Noncompliance citations:

* The township did not properly certify 20 percent of expenditures tested prior to a purchase commitment, and there was no evidence the township followed the exceptions listed in Ohio Revised Code. Failure to properly certify the availability of funds can result in overspending funds and negative cash balances.

* In fiscal year 2003 the township participated in an Issue II project involving improvements to a township road. The township did not report the costs paid by Ohio Public Works Commission on behalf of the township. The financial statements were adjusted to include these transactions. This caused an understating of receipts and disbursements. This comment was also on the audit for the 2001-02 financial statement.

* During fiscal year 2004, $6,757 due to the gasoline tax fund was incorrectly credited to the road and bridge fund. This comment was also included on the 2001-02 financial statements.

* Transfers and advances in 2003 and 2004 were not approved through resolution by the board of trustees. In 2003 the board authorized the clerk to makes transfers or advances as needed instead of by individual motion.

Kellem said her first audit taught her many things, including the need for a purchase order protocol and the importance of filing amended certificates. She feels that her latest audit will show she has learned from the citations on her first audit. Kellem noted that when she took office, the transition was difficult because the prior clerk was terminally ill and died shortly afterward. Straightening out the bookkeeping took time, she said.

Clerk Controversies

* July 1991 -- Schaefer angered former police Chief Richard Burrows when she slashed his hourly net pay from $9.23 an hour to $7.23. Schaefer said she decided to make the new deductions from his paycheck because the trustees didn't tell her not to. The deductions were made because of new state regulations. Trustees determined Schaefer violated Burrows' contract, and the disputed money was given to Burrows.

* October 1991 -- A dispute between the Fraternal Order of Police and Schaefer was settled. In June Schaefer had taken as long as two weeks to deposit the payroll deductions. The township adopted a policy allowing five business days to make deposits.

* November 1991 -- Schaefer's message machine played a campaign message asking township residents to vote for Schaefer and Trustee Bill Dwelle. Schaefer was investigated by the county prosecutor and Ohio Elections Commission for illegal campaign practices. Schaefer was never found guilty of an illegal practice; the message was on her personal answering machine.

* February 1992 -- Schaefer was cleared by a grand jury in a question of whether she arranged for the township to lease a computer from her daughter.

* February 1992 -- Trustees decided Schaefer's backlog of incomplete minutes from the last 40 meetings since July 1991 would be completed by a "responsible third party," and tapes of those meetings kept by Schaefer would be seized for that purpose. Two censure resolutions were passed after an executive session with Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter. Schaefer then failed to meet the deadline to turn the materials over. By Feb. 24 Schaefer had eliminated her backlog and completed the minutes, but in March trustees said the minutes were incomplete and refused to accept them.

* April 1993 -- Township clerk Lisa Crescimano consulted the state auditor and county prosecutor's office about a large number of checks payable to the township which were not deposited dating back as far as 1987.

* From April 1993 through the end of the year the township tried to recoup outstanding funds against Schaefer's bond for late payment penalties accrued by the township while she was clerk. Their claim totaling $2,168.15 was eventually denied.

* During the last year Kellem notified the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System the township may not have paid its share of an employee's contributions because she was unable to find any record of the payments, which pre-dated her term of office. Kellem later found the records existed.

* Earlier this fall Kellem left a Social Security number on a public document requested by the Register. Kellem said the mistake was not deliberate, and in the future she will review requested records more carefully to redact such information before releasing the documents.