Fair board paid former clerk amount of ‘illegal’ expense as consultant

10:00 a.m. Sunday, March 19, 2017 Politics
Ty Greenlees
Montgomery County Agricultural Society officials paid a former clerk for consulting work equal to the amound state auditors ordered she repay for an earlier error.

After state auditors ordered former Montgomery County Agricultural Society clerk Debbie Long to repay $1,150 for improper payouts she received upon leaving, the agency’s board agreed to pay Long $1,150 for assisting with the state audit, according to records obtained by the I-Team.

Now, that decision will be reviewed in another audit, state officials say.

Long never had a contract with the fair board after leaving the agency in 2014. But she agreed to help her replacements pull records and answer questions from state auditors in October and November 2016, she said in an interview last week.

“Because of the time (period that) was being audited, I was there. The two (currently) in the office were not. I basically sat down with them and answered questions, told them where they could find some of the stuff they were looking for,” she said.

Agricultural Society Vice President Tim Terrell said Long “had a skillset that we didn’t have during the audit, so we looked to hire her.”

Long said she worked maybe 25 to 27 hours. At some point during the audit, she learned she was going to have to repay the finding.

Fair board records show the agency voted to hire Long on Dec. 1. They paid her $1,150 on Dec. 5 under an invoice listing her work as an audit consultant, according to records obtained by the I-Team.

“That was what the board decided on to pay me,” she said. “I had nothing to do with the amount they paid me. That would have been a board decision, not my decision.”

Terrell said they decided on the dollar amount to pay Long because that was how much she invoiced them.

On Dec. 8, she paid back a finding for recovery for that same dollar amount issued by the Ohio Auditor of State.

The auditor’s office released its findings in January, noting that Long retired in 2014 and was paid for 11.5 unused personal days totaling $1,150 even though the agency’s handbook states there is no payout given for unused personal or vacation leave.

It noted she paid back money “illegally expended in the amount of $1,150” but didn’t mention she was paid that amount twice – once when she retired and again as a consultant.

“The current administration will adhere to the current employee handbook from this point forward,” says the agency officials’ response in the state audit.

Contacted last week, Ohio auditor’s office spokeswoman Beth Gianforcaro said the payment would be reviewed in a future audit.

“Verification of services received for services paid is part of the routine audit process for the state auditors,” she wrote in an email.

“The next routine audit for the Fiscal Year that ends November 30, 2017 and 2016 for the Montgomery County Agricultural Society is slated for early 2018. We can evaluate what the board may have deemed appropriate public purpose in a future audit.”