Fiscal OfficerLast update on March 28, 2017
AUBURN TOWNSHIP FISCAL BUDGET APPROVED, BUT “YOU CAME FROM A VERY BAD PLACE”
Published August 26, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016, was Geauga Fiscal Budget Review Day. The Geauga County Fiscal Budget Commission, composed this year ( like 2015) of County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, County Treasurer Chris Hitchcock, and County Auditor Frank Gliha, met in the famous back room with Beverly Sustar and Ron Leyde to listen to townships’ (as well as villages’ and libraries’) elected representatives explain how taxpayer funds would be spent during the year beginning January 1, 2017. Although a few entities, like the Burton Library, received kudos in the form of hand-held smiley faces, the bulk of the reps that appeared were told that they were hoarding funds. In so doing, they were told, they were risking the possibility of having funding reduced come fiscal budget hearings for 2018, which will commence during the summer of 2017.
Broken down for the General Fund, the Road and Bridge Fund, and the Fire Fund, the differences between requests and approvals of funding may be more graphic. The General Fund request of $571,646,69 was reduced to $472,743.14. The Road and Bridge Fund request of $1,462,471.00 was cut back to $1,229,610.09. The Fire Fund, with a request of $927,520.34, was given an approved funding of $722,119.09.
The video of the Auburn Township Fiscal Budget Hearing of 9 A.M on August 23, 2016, is included.
Listen while Budget Commission member, Chris Hitchcock, reminds Fred May that while he is doing a little better without stating “better than whom or what,” Auburn Township fiscal accounting has been “a very bad place.” The budget was unanimously approved, but no kudos or smiley faces were invoked to demonstrate a job well done.
TWO MORE FLAWED AUBURN STATE AUDITS WITH LINKS TO JULIAN AND GRUBE'S FINDINGS
Published August 10, 2016
In August 2014 the State Auditor released the 2012 and 2013 performance audits for Auburn Township. Back then auditing entity Julian and Grube reported noncompliance with Ohio Revised code by then newcomer Fiscal Officer Fred May. The 2014 and 2015 audits, released by the same office on August 2, 2016, reveal the same reoccurring flaws, along with additional concerns for the performance of Mr. May, now significantly more experienced as a result of announced mandatory state training for township fiscal officers.
According to the reports from Julian and Grube released at the State Auditor’s website in 2014, 15% of all transactions in Auburn Township were not accompanied by proper appropriations by the township’s fiscal officer. Page 31 of the 2015 performance audit by the same entity now online, reveals in Finding 2015-002, one of six flaws noted, that “[e]xpenditures exceeded appropriations “ to the tune of $697,000 on appropriations of $1,756,000, a deviation of more than 40%.
Findings 2013-001 and 2013-002 were not corrected but reappeared as Findings 2014-001 and 2014-002. Finding 2014-001 notes, “In general, an accounting and information system should be designed to provide management with accurate and timely information to enable well-informed business decisions to be made.” In the 2014 and 2015 reports Julian and Grube noted that five of six findings of fault in 2014 were not resolved. In response to the above criticism, Mr. May noted, as he did in 2014,“The Fiscal Officer will work to provide a sound fiscal environment for the township and has implemented policies and procedures to help with financial statement presentation.” To view the findings of the 2014 audit pages 29-32 click here.
Finding 2015-006 notes,“In 2015, the Township’s appropriations approved in the minutes did not agree to the Uniform Accounting Network (UAN) system appropriations. . .The township is also at risk of of overspending in excess of available funds, which could possibly result in negative fund balances.” Julian and Grube consequently recommended on page 34 that “approved appropriations as evidence within the Board of Trustee’s [sic] be incorporated into UAN by the Fiscal Officer in a timely manner.” What was Mr. May’s response? “The Fiscal Officer will work to ensure that current appropriations and other budgetary information are properly input into the UAN system.” (Julian and Grube, 2015 Audit, page 34.)
On page 29 of the 2015 audit, Julian and Grube reported “[t]he Township had 26% of disbursements tested with an invoice that was dated prior to the purchase order, thus causing those disbursements not to be certified in a timely manner. In addition, the purchase orders were not consistently certified with the Fiscal Officer’s signature.” To view the findings of the 2015 audit pages 31-36 click here.
In spite of the experience of state-imposed and state-run workshops for fiscal officers and more job experience, Mr. May appears to be creating more serious liabilities for Auburn Township. How many employees can make the same mistakes during a four year period without being terminated? How many elected fiscal officers can afford repeated noncompliance with Ohio Revised Code without significant recourse?
To view the full audits click here for the 2014 audit and here for the 2015 audit.
Township fiscal budget hearing July 6, 2015 for the 2016 budget held at the administration building
2014 AUBURN TOWNSHIP FISCAL BUDGET HEARING CONDUCTED WITH THE GEAUGA COUNTY FISCAL BUDGET COMMISSION, COMPRISED OF (left to right)TREASURER CHRISTOPHER HITCHCOCK, AUDITOR FRANK GLIHA, MARY BRIDGID MATHENEY OF THE PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, AND DEPUTY AUDITOR BEVERLY SUSTAR: 9:45 A.M., TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2013
Published on August 13, 2013
Auburn Township passed a 1.0 mill Road and Bridge Renewal Levy in November 2011 and now seeks an additional 1.0 mill Road and Bridge Renewal Levy in November 2013. Auburn Township has a third 1.0 Road and Bridge Renewal Levy. All three come up for renewal within a five-year period.
Listen carefully to Treasurer Christopher Hitchcock (far left in glasses) as he expresses concern for the wide-swings in cash holdings that have resulted in cash assets 500% greater than estimated assets presented in the 2013 fiscal budget. Listen to Mr. Hitchcock chide Fiscal Officer Plavcan ( in bright orange) for holding on to assets that have been paid by Auburn Township taxpayers.
Listen carefully to the words of Susan Plavcan. During the summer of 2012 Auburn Township Trustee John Eberly reported that roads in Auburn Township were in such great shape that chip-seal was not necessary, thereby saving the township hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Road and Bridge Account. Listen as Susan Plavcan attempts to blame the huge overage of available funds on the accounting system of State Auditor Dave Yost, identified by her as UAN (Uniform Accounting Network). Listen as Susan tries to explain that the UAN system requires her just to “plug the numbers in” to get the immediate results and that somehow it is that accounting system which caused her to have 500% more funds than she reported in the Fiscal Budget of 2012.
Listen to her defensiveness and argumentative nature as she feels compelled, apparently, to save face instead of present her report to the Fiscal Budget Commission in a professional manner.
Watch the red-haired gentleman to the left of Susan Plavcan. That is Fred May, soon to be appointed the next Fiscal Officer. Mr. May, a licensed attorney since 2005, is a current member of the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Commission, but appointed at the pleasure of Auburn Township Trustees to the Zoning Commission in January 2013. Now, he will be both Fiscal Officer and Zoning Commission member. How sweet it apparently is to be appointed to these situations at the behest of the incumbent Trustees, two of whom are being challenged in their 2013 bid for re-election.
If you watch carefully, you will see Auditor Frank Gliha wink at Fred May at the conclusion of the 15 minute hearing, which resulted in the Fiscal Budget Commission's approval of the 2014 Auburn Township Fiscal Budget after all the chastisement from Treasurer Hitchcock. What did that wink mean? What does county approval of a budget for an entity that is hoarding taxpayer monies mean?
Oh, and check out the face of the laughing Ms. Matheney, who, from all appearances, is too fixated on being a party girl to be taking her role on the Fiscal Budget Commission too seriously. After all, in the words of a song from a generation ago, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” for the Good Times in Geauga County.
Bill Designed to Boost Local Fiscal Officer Accountability
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
By Tiffany L. Parks, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
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A Lancaster lawmaker has picked up his efforts from the previous legislative session to carve out education programs and continuing education requirements for the fiscal officers of townships and municipal corporations.
“There are three main themes in the legislation,” said Sen. Tim Schaffer of Senate Bill 6. “Accountability for local government fiscal officers, professional development and public and community school fiscal officer changes and accountability.”
The proposed legislation, a reintroduction of Senate Bill 339 from the 129th General Assembly, was drafted in response to the 2011 Ohio Supreme Court decision involving former Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler.
Before resigning as part of a settlement in October 2011, Zeigler was embroiled in a contentious battle to keep his job after it was discovered that his former chief deputy treasurer, Vincent Frustaci, had stolen millions of dollars from county accounts.
Months before his resignation, the Supreme Court had reversed a decision from the Stark County Commissioners to remove Zeigler from his position.
In a letter he wrote upon leaving office, Zeigler took responsibility for hiring Frustaci but said his resignation was not an admission of wrongdoing.
SB 6, which was crafted with the help of Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost, is designed to address issues in current law and expand accountability at the local level.
In sponsor testimony last week before the Senate Public Safety, Local Government and Veterans Affairs committee, Schaffer, a Republican, said the bill provides a “thorough yet expedited removal procedure that aims to protect the taxpayers’ dollars while maintaining necessary protections for fiscal officers from political gamesmanship.”
“Any fiscal officer who is removed from office under this new legislation would not be allowed to serve for at least four years following the final decision and until any missing money is repaid,” he said, adding that SB 6 would change the standard of liability of public money for public officials.
“Currently, there is a strict liability standard in law, meaning that they are solely responsible for any actions of their employees or agents.”
Schaffer said the bill would amend the standard to negligence, where officials would be liable if they fail to exercise due diligence in their official capacity.
“Public officials who do their jobs shouldn’t be penalized if a deceptive employee ‘cooks the books’ and creates a problem that could not have been detected through due diligence,” he said.
Schaffer said SB 6 also provides for more accountability by requiring county auditors and treasurers to perform their duties at least once every 30 days instead of the current 90 days.
If enacted, state funding could be withheld from unauditable political subdivisions if they fail to make reasonable efforts to get their books in order within 45 days.
“This process of withholding state funding has already been proven to be a successful strategy,” Schaffer said. “Current law allows the state to withhold money from unauditable community schools.”
With regard to the bill’s focus on continuing education, Schaffer said, professional development can enhance the knowledge and expertise of employees in all occupations.
“Government and elected service is no different,” he said. “Current law provides for varying types of training for our elected fiscal officers. This bill does not alter the continuing education requirements for county fiscal officers, but rather addresses the continuing education hours for township and municipal fiscal officers.”
SB 6 would require newly-elected municipal corporation and township fiscal officers to complete six hours of education prior to taking office or during the first year of office and an additional 18 hours of education by the end of the officer’s first term.
Fiscal officers would have to complete 12 hours of continuing education in each subsequent term.
“As local budgets become smaller this training may help fiscal officers per-form their jobs in a more knowledgeable and efficient manner,” Schaffer said, noting that the training would have to be administered by or approved by the auditor’s office.
Schaffer also highlighted the bill’s provisions concerning school fiscal officers.
“If a school district becomes unauditable, the school has 45 days to provide a written response outlining how they plan to become an auditable entity. The treasurer who was responsible for the year the school is declared unauditable must be suspended if they are still employed as treasurer,” he said.
“Upon the suspension, the State Board of Education then has the opportunity to take action to suspend, revoke or limit the treasurer’s license.”
SB 6 also requires that college preparatory boarding school treasurers must be licensed as a public school treasurer.
The bill has gained bipartisan support from Sens. Kris Jordan, Frank LaRose, Shirley Smith, Edna Brown, Joe Uecker, Peggy Lehner and Christopher Widener.
SB 6 has not been scheduled for additional hearings.
AUBURN TOWNSHIP FISCAL OFFICER---FOOT IN MOUTH AGAIN
September 7, 2012
A “public” meeting at the Auburn Township Administration Building on August 28 turned into a closed meeting, This is the same meeting where a member of the public was refused admittance after State Representative Matt Lynch announced on his Bainbridge bulletin board, ”ALL WELCOME.” Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney was in attendance at this “public” meeting turned “closed” meeting, so how could someone from the public be ejected?
Auburn Township Fiscal Officer Plavcan noted to a reputable local reporter that “a minimum of $500,000 [of township funds] and up to $15 million can be sent to STAR Plus, with interest at 5.25 percent.” (“Trustees learn more about state investment program.,” Chagrin Valley Times, September 6, 2012, page 2)
Such a return on investment sounds very impressive, doesn't it?
The problem is that the STAR Plus investment program for municipal entities pays only 0.25% on a minimum of $500,000. According to the official STAR Plus website at www.STAROhioPlus.com.
The Current Yield (August 1, 2012 for latest information online) is 0.25%.
How much difference is there between 5.25% and the 0.25% on the $500,000 deposit, as stated at the www.STAROhioPlus.com website? Do the math.
5.25% results in a payment of $26250.
0.25% results in a payment if $1250.
How well-informed does one have to be to be the Auburn Township Fiscal Officer?
The Chagrin Valley Times has been informed of this significant informational error.
Township fiscal budget hearing August 14, 2012 for the 2013 fiscal budget at the County Auditors office (approximately 7 minutes)
Is Auburn Township out of control?
Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.41 requires that... “No subdivision or taxing unit shall: Make any expenditure of money unless it has been appropriated."
The July 19, 2012 release of the Ohio State Audit cites Auburn Township for spending $3,164,947 but only appropriating $2,094,768. That was $1,070,206 not approved by the Trustees! Who is asleep at the switch?
The following table is from the State Auditor's Report page 45. I have taken the liberty to total up the fund columns to obtain total township funding:
Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.41(B) requires that no subdivision is to expend money unless it has been appropriated.
The Township had disbursements exceeding appropriations at the legal level of control in the following funds:
December 31, 2011 Appropriations Disbursements Excess
Major Funds: $ 53,000 $ 56,829 $ 3,829
Other Salaries - - -
Transfers Out - $ 171,027 $ 171,027
Road and Bridge Fund-
Contracted Services $ 597,000 $ 722,092 $ 125,092
Road and Bridge Fund-
Operating Expenses $ 113,000 $ 145,054 $ 32,054
Special Fire Levy Fund-
Contracted Services $ 441,000 $ 651,000 $ 210,000
Fire Department Addition Fund-
Contracted Services $ 890,768 $ 1,378,522 $ 487,754
Non Major Fund:
NOPEC Grant Fund-
Contracted Services - $ 40,450 $ 40,450
___________ __________ __________
Total Funds $2,094,768 $3,164,947 $1,070,206
Additionally this audit stated on page 45, "With disbursements exceeding appropriations, the Township is unlawfully expending monies that have not been appropriated. This could result in unnecessary purchases or fund deficits."
I have attended trustee meetings in other townships. For example, at every Chester Township meeting the Trustees are actively engaged in the process of approving and appropriating funds. The very format of the agenda for each meeting has each and every appropriation, warrant, blanket, and super blanket purchase order spelled out for each of the Trustees to vote on. They know where the money comes from and where it is going. I only wish the same could be said of Auburn Township Trustees.
When monies are spent without the proper checks and balances, the township is at risk for theft and corruption. The best thing I can say about the situation is we have careless, sloppy accounting. However, my worst fear is the possibility tax dollars are being stolen or channeled elsewhere. Is it time to ask our Trustees to stand up and account for their actions?
By reading the Ohio State Audit for Auburn Township report, we can all see that the Trustees and Fiscal Officer have had their hands slapped numerous times. Is that enough or should we say NO to levying more taxes on ourselves and remember this ineptitude in 2013 when Trustees Troyan and Eberly are up for re-election?
Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost
www.auditor.state.oh.us under “Search Audits”
Public Hearing - 2013 Tax Budget,
July 2, 2013
2013 fiscal budget is available for viewing here
FISCAL OFFICER PLAVCAN IS ARGUMENTATIVE ABOUT DISCUSSING, PUBLISHING AND POSTING AUBURN TOWNSHIP WARRANTS FOR PAYOUTS.
May 18, 2012
WHY? WHY? WHY?
Note the video tape of the May 14, 2012, Trustees Meeting in Auburn. You will note Fiscal Officer Plavcan becoming very annoyed about not filling a pending request for Warrants. When pressed to do so, Ms. Plavcan gave a response of disrespect and egotism to the taxpayer who made the request.
Do you think ELECTED officials, such as Susan Plavcan, have the right to refuse requests for public information? Although Plavcan is required to participate in a yearly seminar about public information requests, she continues to demonstrate her complete disregard for the RIGHT of voters to know the expenses of Auburn Township.
Do you think this is correct behavior for an elected official?
If you have any doubts, please check the trustee meeting minutes for Newbury Township at
http://www.newburyohio.com/trustees-meeting-april-4-2012 and trustee meeting minutes for Munson Township at http://www.munsontwp.com/Trustees_Mn_April_24_2012.pdf
What could POSSIBLY be the reason for Fiscal Officer Plavcan's discomfort at discussing the warrants, at posting them on the township bulletin board, as is done in Chester Township, or at providing them for interested and concerned citizens?
Do you think a Fiscal Officer with this kind of emotional disorder is fit to serve as a township fiscal officer?
Do you think she is willing to be the subject of a court order for failure to supply requested records?
Do you think she has the right to be surly, rude, and unresponsive to citizen requests for public information---a right guaranteed by the Ohio and US Constitutions and the Office of Dave Yost in Governor Kasich's Office??
Oh, the horror...Oh, the shame...
WHY IS THERE SUCH A LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
IN AUBURN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE MEETINGS?
April 11, 2012
Why does the Auburn Township Fiscal Officer choose not to publish such public information in her printed minutes? Is there some information about payees or amounts of money expended that might raise some accounting questions?
Likewise, what could possibly be the reason why the Auburn Township Fiscal Officer does not publish Permanent Appropriations Resolutions with the dollar amounts listed for Auburn Township? We think such a publication would help Auburn Township residents better understand the true cost of operating local government operations. We note that other communities, such as Munson Township, are comfortable sharing such information with their residents. We think Auburn Township residents have a right to know this information without being charged to make public information requests.
Sources: www.newburyohio.com; www.twp.russell.oh.us; www.munsontwp.com
SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT ACCOUNTING IN
AUBURN TOWNSHIP'S 2012
April 11, 2012
We have a few concerns, specifically in the Road and Bridges Account, 2031, Account 2031-330-360, Contracted Services, and Account 2031-330-420, Operating Expenses. We would like explained how it was possible on December 19 to list Contracted Services at $730,000 and on January 23 to reduce the Contracted Services to $351,184 for a 190% accounting error.
Likewise, how was it possible on December 19 for Operating Expenses to be $145,000 and on January 23 for Operating Expenses to be listed as $115,000 for a 21% error? The errors in these two areas of Road and Bridges account for about $409,000.
For those of us who are responsible for balancing our checkbooks or making the house payment, being 21% and 190% in error would result in massive felony charges and/or foreclosure on our homes by our lending institution and/or the County Auditor. Is this kind of accounting in the best interests of Auburn Township taxpayers' money?
Another question about Account 2031 Road and Bridges: If the 2012 Fiscal Budget showed $307,760 in the hole at year end, thereby justifying the passage in November 2011 of one of three road levies in Auburn Township, how did the request to the Auditor of $470,920 result in a $78,030 balance on January 1, 2012, in Road and Bridges and a total of $938,965 from collection of taxes for a total as of March 5, 2012, of over $1,140,000 per statement signed by Auditor Frank Gliha? Sadly, when I have asked for explanations in public meetings before, the Fiscal Officer's response has been, "You are reading it wrong." (See video minutes of January 9, 2012) When the Fiscal Officer was then requested to "please help with an explanation," she grew silent. Either the Fiscal Officer 1)chose to be difficult and uncooperative, or 2) she was not skilled enough in her role to explain this issue to the public. 3)We cannot forget the former Chester Township Fiscal Officer, who is still under incarceration. Which of these 3 explanations is it?
Are Auburn Township residents overpaying for road and bridge maintenance with 3 levies in five years? Are the numbers in fiscal budgets being accurately represented for taxpayers? Are Auburn Township Trustees being overcharged for labor and services that are passed on to unsuspecting Auburn Township taxpayers?
New levies will be coming up soon. It is important to know why the overruns are occurring and to insist that contracted labor and services do not bankrupt the township or the taxpayers.
Sources: Auburn Township 2012 Fiscal Budget, Permanent Appropriations Resolution, and Amended Appropriations Resolution, all Public Information documents
NOTES ON THE AUBURN TOWNSHIP 2012 STATEMENT OF PERMANENT APPROPIATIONS
This statement of permanent appropriations (click here for a copy) for the operation of Auburn Township was passed by unanimous approval by Auburn Township Trustees Eberly, Troyan, and Cavanagh at the December 19, 2011, Trustee meeting without discussion or request for public input.
This public information financial document raises concerns.
1. When did Auburn Township become a $3,000,000 + operation?
What are the 2012 permanent appropriations of neighboring townships, like Newbury, Russell, etc?
2. Have you noticed the tax collection fees in accounts 1000-110-314 (General Fund), 2031-330-314 (Special) and 2191-220-314 (Fire Department Levy)?
If you add $6000+ $17,200, and $13,440, the total adds up to $36,340. Does this amount seem like a lot of overhead?
3. In account 2191 (with no account earmarked), “repay loan USDA” is indicated to be $200,000. If so, why is 4903-760-360, noted as “fire department addition,” listed as $150,000?
So how much appropriation for the AVFD addition is Auburn Township actually paying down in 2012 as a result of the approved 2010 Fire Levy? Is it $150,000? Is it $200,000? Is it $350,000?
If so, did Fiscal Officer provide an adequate or understandable explanation?
Check out the video tape recording of the January 9, 2012, Trustee Meeting elsewhere at this website. Can you understand the explanation?
Official Auburn Township BudgetThis is the Auburn Township 2012 fiscal budget submitted to the Geauga County Budget Commission on July 6, 2011.
Here is the final and official 2012 budget approved by the Geauga County Budget Commission on August 18, 2011.
THE JOB REQUIREMENTS OF THE AUBURN TOWNSHIP FISCAL OFFICER, SUSAN PLAVCAN
For the record, Auburn Township's Fiscal Officer is up for re-election, but she is unopposed. As a result, she did not feel compelled to complete the survey provided her by the Geauga County League of Women Voters. She did not feel compelled to show up for the October 18, 2011, League of Women Voters' Meet the Candidates evening at Kenston High School either.
So what, you say?
Well, Ms. Plavcan is avoiding direct requests from Auburn Township taxpayers for public information. Back at the end of June, she placed a legal notice in the Geauga Maple Leaf indicating that the fiscal budget was ready to be viewed by the public in anticipation of the Public Hearing on July 5, 2011.
Nevertheless, when requests to view the 2012 fiscal budget occurred the following week (June 27-July 1), Ms. Plavcan loudly announced that she could not communicate without the assistance of the township attorney. The fiscal budget was not available until the morning of July 5, the same day as the public hearing.
All summer, the same scenario has been occurring. As a result of Ms. Plavcan's further unresponsiveness to fulfilling public information requests, known as Ohio Revised Code 143.49, at least one taxpayer wrote a concerned letter to the State Auditor, David Yost, who has responded in a letter of October 24, 2011. That letter is enclosed here.
It is time to remind all Auburn Township taxpayers, the County Prosecutor David Joyce, and the Auburn Township attorney, better known as Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney, that at the first Trustee meeting in January each of the Trustees and the Fiscal Officer promise to uphold the Ohio Constitution, which is entirely composed of Ohio Revised Code.
Is it acceptable that the Fiscal Officer can break her pledge to uphold Ohio Revised Code?
Do Auburn Township taxpayers and voters have the best representation for their vote? Fiscal Officer; Township Administrator; and Cementary Sextant;
The Fiscal Officer will be up for election in 2015