As a result of a public records request made to Mad River Township on February 10, 2014, the Enon Eagle has discovered several late charges incurred on township accounts, including an instance when a member of the Hustead Fire Department had their “fleet card” declined when attempting to fuel one of the department vehicles.
That department member then paid for the fuel with their personal credit card. The Eagle confirmed this with Mad River Township Trustee Robert McClure and Green Township Trustee Alan Armstrong, who said the instance occurred in January of this year. Armstrong stated in a phone interview that he was told by McClure that Fiscal Officer Maralee Leonard made a phone payment to reinstate the card after he contacted her regarding the declined payment.
Fiscal Officer Leonard directed our editor to contact trustee Joe Catanzaro regarding the initial public records request. On February 12, 2014 a formal request was sent to Mr. Catanzaro, and on February 13, 2014, the Eagle was provided access to the records requested. A list of all items copied as part of the request was left for Ms. Leonard at the township offices as she declined to be present.
As part of the public information request, the Eagle discovered several incidents in which the township has been charged a finance charge, late fee, or interest fee. On the Super Fleet statement for the activity period of September 11, 2013 to October 9, 2013, finance charges in the amount of $17.98 appear. A notation appears on page 1 “transaction detail analysis” for Mad River Township “please pay past due amount promptly”. A finance charge of $10.63 also appears on the Hustead EMS page which also contains a request for payment of past due amount.
Other fees and interest charges were found on the November and December 2013 card statements for Security National Bank. Fees and interest charges listed to date on the November statement were in excess of $180.
In reviewing other statements we noted accounts marked with terms such as “past due”, “second request” and “account is severely delinquent—call immediately”. Clark County Utility statements dated November 12, 2013, summating the billing period from August 29, 2013 to October 3, 2013, indicate that the account was delinquent and if not paid by November 19, 2013, it would result in a “shut off on November 20, 2013”. A “disconnection notice” was also found to appear on one of the Ohio Edison statements dated January 8, 2014 for an amount in excess of $800. Past due notices were also found on AT&T statements.
The Enon Eagle contacted Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost and spoke with Blaine Kelly, his Public Information Officer. When asked if such late payments are common among comparable Ohio townships, Mr. Kelly stated “this happens, it is not common by any means, but it does happen.” Kelly noted that in some cases the Auditor’s Office will issue a “management letter comment,” which would allow the trustees and fiscal officer know that the Auditor’s Office is aware of a situation. In some instances, Kelly said the office will issue a “non-compliance citation,” which would inform township officials that action could be taken. Kelly explained that the office only intervenes or reprimands a township fiscal officer if he or she is late in paying federal taxes or is found to be stealing funds.
On behalf of the taxpayers of Mad River Township at the March 3 meeting of the township board, the Eagle asked the township elected officials in attendance who would be responsible if the fire and EMS vehicles could not be refueled should an emergency occur. Trustee Kathy Estep stated that “it would be the responsibility of the joint board.”
We then asked if members of the departments are expected to pay for fuel with their own credit cards if a fleet card is declined, Estep stated “certainly not”.
The Eagle also asked if the trustees were aware when signing checks at the meetings that some accounts have late fees and interest charges. Estep suggested that this does occur on occasion depending on when payments occur, and due to the methodology of payments and dates of meetings, that sometimes payments can be delayed.
When asked if the elected officials were aware of the disconnection notices issued to the township from utility providers, Estep asked trustee Robert McClure if he was aware. He stated that he first saw evidence of these instances when he made copies of the bills for the Eagle in January. Estep did not appear to have knowledge of this. Fiscal Officer Maralee Leonard made no comment concerning any of the questions asked.
President of the board Kathy Estep told the Enon Eagle that the trustees “will be looking into the issue” brought to their attention by the Eagle. Trustee Joe Catanzaro was not present at the meeting and could not be reached for comment by deadline.
The Eagle submitted a public information request for copies of the bills paid at the February 18, 2014 to trustee Catanzaro on February 20. Catanzaro informed the Eagle that trustee Kathy Estep has requested that all requests be sent to her. On February 25 Estep replied that she had forwarded the request to the fiscal officer. On February 27, Estep was asked for an estimated time of delivery and replied that the request had been sent to Leonard. As of the close of business on March 3, no records have been made available.