GASPER TWP — A former Gasper Township fiscal officer has been cited by the Ohio Auditor’s Office for failing to remit federal tax withholdings to the IRS, according to documents released by the auditor’s office in March.
Former fiscal officer Anitra Roell’s actions reportedly cost the township nearly $5,000 in fines and penalties in addition to the $35,000 in taxes owed, according to the Ohio Auditor. The delinquency reportedly dates back to 2014.
“She didn’t file the appropriate paperwork for several quarters,” township attorney Martin Votel said. “The IRS was trying to contact her, and none of that information was being passed on to the township trustees. So the IRS finally brought down the heavy hammer and started imposing fines and penalties. All of this unbeknownst to the trustees, who rely upon the fiscal officer to handle situations like this.”
The IRS eventually started placing liens on township property, Votel said, forcing the trustees to pay the delinquent taxes using money from the township’s general operations fund. Votel then had to pursue remuneration from Travelers Insurance, with whom the township held a Public Official Bond on Roell.
“It was pretty scary for them to be out of pocket $35,000 when there was no certainty Travelers was going to make good,” Votel said.
A public official bond guarantees that if a public official is “negligent or reckless in the performance of their duties, and if that damages the municipality that they work for, the municipality can get restitution,” Votel said.
The township was successful in pursuing restitution for the $35,000 expenditure, according to Votel; and now the auditor’s office has issued a Finding for Recovery that will hold Roell liable to repay the township for the fines and penalties incurred.
Gasper Twp Trustee Eric White blamed the situation on a lack of time and attention, saying Roell had other responsibilities — including a second job — that distracted from her duties as fiscal officer.
“She had a lot going on besides her township job, and I think she just didn’t devote any time,” White said. “I offered to get her help with her duties, but she said she didn’t need it.”
White said he has been with the township for over 25 years, but does not plan to seek re-election; Roell’s term as fiscal officer ended in March 2020.
Both White and Township Fire Chief Tim Halcomb said the scandal has had an impact on community members and their relationship with their elected officials. White claims to have been “scapegoated” for the situation on Facebook, while Halcomb says township residents have accosted him on the street.
“It’s an embarrassing situation,” Halcomb said. “My guys’ salary depends on passing levies, and that depends on voters. And they don’t see that we don’t have anything to do with this. They just see the township.”
A report signed by Ohio Auditor Keith Faber on March 19, 2020 states that Roell has been found liable to repay the township in the amount of $4,899.