MAD RIVER TOWNSHIP — During Monday’s Mad River Township Trustee meeting, president Kathy Estep gave a public response questions asked by a local weekly newspaper.
An Enon Eagle newspaper reporter’s March 4 inquiries related to allegations of mismanaged township finances that resulted in delinquent payments to vendors, disconnect notices, and the declined of a township fleet credit card during a transaction in January.
“I stated during the last meeting that we (trustees) would look into the situation. I have done that and would like to state the facts as I know them,” Estep said.
Estep stated that the three township trustees and the fiscal officer were elected officials. The duties of Township Fiscal Officer Maralee Leonard, according to Estep, included advising trustees concerning budgetary matters, maintaining township records, including financial records, and paying township bills.
“It is the responsibility of the trustees to establish policies following the guidelines of the Ohio Constitution and state laws,” said Estep. “The fiscal officer’s independence from the trustees creates a check and balance in financial matters. The fiscal officer is responsible for making payments, and trustees are required to sign every check and review all electronic payments.”
The township trustee acknowledged that some bills had not been paid in a timely fashion as the result of “the timing of township meetings.”
The trustees meet on the first and third Monday of every month, and checks are signed at those meetings.
“In the past, our department heads have waited until a meeting date to submit bills to the fiscal officer for payment,” Estep said. “The fiscal officer must then prepare the checks to be signed by the trustees at the next meeting. This meeting would be at least two weeks and sometimes, three weeks later.”
Estep said this type of problem generally occurred when township trustees met only twice a month and contended that trustees and fiscal officers in other townships experienced similar problems. She noted that communication issues, both internal and with some vendors, had also resulted in late payments.
According to Estep, the board of trustees had taken several steps to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
Estep added that Leonard had assured trustees that she would make every effort to pay township bills on time.
“There has been no misuse of public funds,” Estep said. “We have no deficits in fund balances that would prevent us from making timely payments. No township money is missing or unaccounted for.”
The township trustee maintained that during the time Leonard has served as fiscal officer, the issue of late payments was never brought to the attention of township trustees by means of a management letter or by an audit finding by the Ohio State Auditor.
“In fact, we have had exemplary audits. As a result, the cost of our audits has been reduced from $10,500 to $2,700, saving us $7,800 during our last audit cycle,” Estep said.
Trustee Robert McClure stated that as a trustee, he took full responsibility for any problem relating to delinquent payments, particularly any late-payment issues with the Hustead Fire and EMS Departments.
“I am the trustee assigned to Hustead Fire and EMS, and I will see to it that the bills are scanned or hand delivered to the fiscal officer in a timely fashion,” said McClure.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, township resident Alan Donaldson proposed that trustees schedule a meeting time between the regular sessions, solely to sign checks.
McClure noted that for many years, township trustees had effectively conducted business without scheduling a special time to sign checks.