State auditor investigators found a shady character in the pages of the Erie County Agricultural Society's financial books.
A state audit released Thursday revealed former Erie County Agricultural Society treasurer Jennifer Galloway may have stolen $16,219 from the fair board.
The auditor's office claimsGalloway cashed $5,500 in society checks and another $6,484 in junior livestock sale checks and kept the money. Investigators said she skimmed other money from the fair in fiscal years 2006 and 2007.
According to the report, the Agricultural Society board authorized the treasurer on Feb. 2, 2005, to receive $400 a month, paid in 12 monthly installments. In fiscal year 2007, Galloway paid herself15 salary installments, creating an overpayment of $1,200.
"We are committed toidentifying misspent tax dollars so that they can be repaid andthe perpetrator held accountable," state auditor Mary Taylor said. "We have professionallytrained white-collar crime investigators that assist ouraudit staff and local authorities when allegations ofmisspending arise; they arediligent in their work and have been very successful identifying and documenting theft of taxpayer dollars."
The Erie County Fair Board and Agricultural Society's books fell under the scrutiny of the state auditor's office in late July. Auditor's office spokeswoman Emily Frazee confirmed a special audit was conducted after an allegation "of fraud, theft or abuse" was made against the board.
Frazee said the allegation surfaced during the regular audit. Regular audits are conducted every two years on any entity in the state receiving tax dollars.
"Our goal is to look at their finances and financial records to make sure they have everything in place and that finances have been distributed properly," Frazee said.
The audit found several shortages in agricultural society funds.
Fair board members kept quiet when news of the special audit first surfaced because they wanted to protect the accused in an ongoing investigation, board president Robert McDowell said.
"I didn't feel it was right to comment on something we weren't entirely sure about," he said. "We were informed of the concerns and why the audit was being conducted from Day 1, but we couldn't come out and ... accuse someone of something we weren't 100 percent sure of."
On Thursday fair board members referred all questions to McDowell, who said the board was kept "abreast" of what was going in the investigation and worked cooperatively with the state auditor, investigators and Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter.
"The last couple of months we've worked closely with them and investigators and held numerous meetings," McDowell said. "They've kept us up to date with their findings.
"It's a sad thing to see, but the bottom line is the investigation is over, and it's been turned over to Mr. Baxter's office. We feel it's only proper that the prosecutor handling the case make detailed comments about the accused."
Baxter said it is unclear what charges Galloway will face.
"We're still reviewing it," he said. "There's ongoing dialogue with her attorney, Jim Hart, about the allegations. We provided him with the information from the investigation prior to the media release so he could counsel his client. Right now there's a possible theft charge, but we haven't made that final determination yet."
Baxter said a decision could be made within the next week or two.
Galloway could not be reached for comment, and attorney Jim Hart declined to comment.
Editor's note: Jennifer Galloway in this story is not related in any way to the Jennifer Galloway who is an employee and coach in the Perkins Schools.