Bills that should have been paid last month are piling up in Jerusalem Township.
Why? It depends on who you talk to.
The township, as do other communities, approves payment of the bills at every trustee meeting. Two of three trustees must approve of a motion to pay the bills before the money is disbursed.
“I have them all prepared and ready for trustees to sign,” said Fiscal Officer Julie Van Nest. “Then I present the bills to them prior to the meeting. During the meeting, the chairman asks for a motion to approve the payment of the bills.”
But in the last three meetings, trustees have refused to make a motion to pay the bills.
Problems first arose at the Feb. 24 meeting. Rodney Graffis, chairman of the board of trustees, was still at work and was not present. Trustee Joe Gray requested that the bills be paid, but Trustee Joe Kiss wanted to wait until the next meeting when Graffis was present.
At a March 10 trustee meeting, only Graffis showed up. Neither Gray nor Kiss could make the meeting. Since there was no quorum, the meeting was cancelled.
John Borell, assistant county prosecutor, told Van Nest to call a special meeting to get the bills paid because payroll taxes were due, according to Van Nest.
Van Nest called a special meeting for March 15 just to pay the bills. The meeting opened with Graffis asking for a motion to pay the bills. Kiss refused, but said he would second a motion made by Graffis. Gray was not present. As a result, Graffis immediately adjourned the meeting.
“It’s not right,” Graffis explained to The Press last week. “I’m chairman. When I ask for a motion, it’s up to the other person to make it. Kiss already signed the bills. I don’t know why he didn’t make the motion.”
Kiss said Graffis and Gray could have made the motions themselves to pay the bills when they ran the meetings.
“I’ve never voted against paying the bills,” said Kiss.
Graffis and Gray, he added, want him to make the motion to pay the bills to set him up.
“I told Rodney two days before the meeting I was not making the motion,” said Kiss “They are hiding something. They’re not telling me or Julie what’s going on. Until they tell me what she’s doing wrong, I don’t feel comfortable making the motion.”
Gray, who has not signed bills since last summer, alleges that Van Nest is not paying the bills out of the proper accounts. He said he recently filed a complaint with the State Auditor’s office and expects a ruling in August.
“She’s made too many mistakes. She’s been taking money out of the wrong appropriations. She’s been paying individuals who shouldn’t be getting checks,” Gray said of Van Nest. “She hasn’t been paying her bills on time. And these are just the ones I caught. So I refuse to sign checks. When you sign your name to a check, you say that check is good.”
He would not identify the individuals who he said Van Nest should not have paid, only that they were former employees.
“It’s her job to stay up on that, which she obviously is not doing,” said Gray.
Van Nest insists she is paying the bills from the correct accounts.
“Where is he coming up with this financial information?” Van Nest said of Gray.
She pays the bills out of four different funds, she explained.
“If I want to pay postage, I’m not going to pay it from the Road and Bridges fund. I’m going to take it out of the general fund,” she said. “Money for oil and filters for the lawn mower that’s used in the cemetery is not taken out of the general account. I take it out of the cemetery fund.”
The auditor’s office, she said, provides her with a chart of accounts. “It explains every area of spending,” she said.
Kiss said he has confidence Van Nest is doing her job correctly.
“She is pulling funds out of the same accounts that former Fiscal Officer Don Murray did, and Gray and Graffis never had one problem signing checks,” said Kiss.
Van Nest said she accidentally took $19 out of the general fund that should have been taken from the Recreation Department fund to pay a bill. “You would have thought I blew up the township,” she said of her mistake.
The next regularly scheduled trustee meeting is Tuesday at 7 p.m., when Van Nest, Graffis and Kiss expect another request will be made for a motion to pay the bills.
“I certainly would hope there will be a motion to pay the bills,” said Graffis.
“It will include a third batch of bills that needs to be paid, plus the other two that need to be brought up to date,” said Van Nest. Among the unpaid bills are the payroll checks of Van Nest and the trustees, she said.
“We have not been paid because it has not been approved,” she said. “I don’t know what our next step is.”
Kiss, though, said he will make the motion at the meeting to pay the bills.
“For the sake of the people, and our fiscal officer’s sanity, there’s no reason why I can’t do it,” said Kiss.