Credit card policy cited: Auditor issues finding against fire district fiscal officer

By: 
Larry Limpf

The Ohio Auditor’s office has issued a finding for recovery against the former fiscal officer of the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District.
The auditor’s report, released last Thursday, states the district had “insufficient policies and procedures” and did not provide the required documentation for $4,017 in credit card expenditures made in 2020 and 2019.
“Without supporting documentation, we were unable to determine whether the unsupported expenditures were for a proper public purpose as well as which credit card user incurred the expense(s). This information could also not be obtained from the financial institution which issued the credit card,” the report says.
A former fiscal officer of the district, Donald Murray, received or collected the public money used to make the improper payments, the report says, and the finding for recovery was issued against him and his bonding company.
The district’s general fund is entitled to $3,605 and the EMS fund is entitled to $412.
“Credit cards can be extremely beneficial for efficiency’s sake, but they can easily cause transparency issues,” said Auditor Keith Faber. “Last year, we issued more than $10 million in findings for recovery and a lot of those dollars were the result of not following credit card policies. It is an easy fix.”
In response to the finding, the district now has policies and procedures in place to ensure expenditures are supported with original itemized documentation and statements. The chairman of the district board of trustees signs a monthly statement that the board has reviewed in detail all credit card account transactions, including itemized receipts.
The district’s debt for vehicles and facilities also was cited by the auditor.
“During 2020 and 2019, the district made principal payments on outstanding promissory notes and installment loans in the amount of $104,161 and $77,097, respectively. The promissory notes and installment loans were used by the district to purchase an ambulance, construct a new building, and purchase a fire truck,” the report says. “This type of debt is not authorized in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 133 or Ohio Revised Code Section 505.401. The district had no statutory authority to incur debt through either installment loans or promissory notes with any banking institutions. Inadequate policies and procedures related to debt issuance can result in illegal expenditures by the district. The district should consult with legal counsel before incurring debt to determine if the debt is authorized by statute.”
In its response, the district says it did receive legal advice before assuming the loan: “It was the decision of the board in place at the time of securing the loan and on the advice of the county prosecutor in office at the time of the application; we applied and obtained a conventional loan through the bid process. It was also the decision of the board in place at the time of securing the loan that it was the most expeditious and cost effective use of fire district taxpayers' monies.”

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