WEST ALEXANDRIA — Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber issued a press release detailing the results of an audit of the Village of West Alexandria on Tuesday, Jan. 5. The audit, which covers the years 2017 and 2018, uncovered multiple anomalies, including a finding for recovery in the amount of $3,326.
A finding for recovery is issued when public funds are determined to have been misspent or misappropriated, according to information on the Auditor of State’s website. Penalties, late fees, and interest charges levied by state agencies are an example of unnecessary expenditures which do not serve a proper public purpose, and may result in a finding for recovery.
Due to “a lack of internal controls,” the auditor’s report alleges, the Village of West Alexandria paid over $3,000 in such penalties during the years in question. Some of these were incurred as a result of failure to properly submit payroll withholdings to the Internal Revenue Service, the Ohio State Department of Taxation, and other agencies.
The finding was issued against former Village Fiscal Officer Wendy Chesney. Chesney and The Cincinnati Insurance Company, which holds a public official bond on Chesney, will now be liable to repay funds to multiple village accounts, according to the report, including to the village’s General Fund in the amount of $1,564.
Mayor Jeff Hickey requested that Chesney be removed from her position as fiscal officer during a special meeting held in February of last year, citing bills not being paid on time, minutes from council meetings being submitted late, and a “general lack of ability to perform her duties in a proper and timely manner.”
Chesney objected, saying that a lack of help and being expected to perform duties not outlined in her job description had prevented her from performing adequately. Council voted four to two to remove Chesney, with council members Dan Utsinger and Shannon Smith voting against the move.
The audit also cites the village for being unable to provide requested documents, including minutes for multiple meetings; for lacking a formal records retention policy during the audit period; for “material” errors contained in village financial statements; for failing to deposit Mayor’s Court receipts in a timely manner; for reportedly lacking a documented disaster recovery plan; and for amounts deposited in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) bank accounts exceeding those indicated by monthly reports.
Council member Zach Shafer, who joined the council in January of last year, commented on some of the report’s findings in a written statement to The Register-Herald.
“Our records retention policy is something that has been on our meeting agenda since the beginning of my term in 2020. This is something that our attorney and department heads have been having to work on,” Shafer’s statement reads, in part. “This is a topic that I have mentioned at many meetings now, and that it keeps getting pushed off and excuses are made; this is ultimately a task that the Mayor should be carrying out and overseeing.”
A credit card policy was voted on and approved by council last year, according to Shafer.
Mayor Jeff Hickey declined to comment on the findings of the report, but said they would likely be discussed during council’s next scheduled meeting on Monday, Jan. 18.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish