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The Press Newspaper

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The state auditor's office will conduct an audit of Jerusalem Township's books for 2008.

It is the second year in a row that the township has received a single year audit.

The state regularly conducts two year audits of townships, according to Emily Frazee, deputy press secretary for  State Auditor Mary Taylor's office.

"Last year, in the fall of 2008, we did a single year audit of 2007 because trustees and the fiscal officer requested it. Trustees have again requested a single year audit of the 2008 financial statement," she said.

The auditor of state is required by Ohio Revised Code to conduct financial audits of all government entities, she said.

"We look at bank records, meeting minutes, money coming in and going out of the township - anything that impacts the financial health of the township. We want to get a sense of how they're doing," she said.

 

The audit will begin shortly, she said.

"They're having an entrance conference some time this week to get this started, then the auditors would be in shortly thereafter to collect information and move forward. We will meet with the folks involved, go over the intent of the audit, and talk about any concerns they may have, or anything in particular they may want us to take a look at. Then we will begin the audit," she said.

"Then we have a post audit conference as well, where we go over what we found.  So when the audit does come out, they have a clear understanding of the audit.

Trustee Joe Gray, in a letter to Taylor last August 21, requested an audit and alleged that the township's fiscal officer, Julie Van Nest, had not made information, such as copies of the minutes, financial statements and reports, available to the public, to him, and other officials.

"This lack of information from the fiscal officer is interfering with the daily operation and responsible decision making for the township," said Gray in the letter.

Frazee said the 2008 audit is not a result of Gray's letter.

"This is not a special audit or performance audit. This is not aimed at the fiscal officer. This isn't focused on any allegations of fraud or theft. This is just a regular financial audit that we're doing for a one year scope of time as opposed to the two year time they would typically get. It is our hope that after this single year audit, we'll be able to get them back on a two year cycle. The next regular audit would be two years from now," said Frazee.

Even so, Van Nest said she welcomed the audit.

"I'm performing my duties as required by the state auditor," said Van Nest. She is frequently in contact with the state auditor's office, she added, to ensure the integrity of her work.

"I continue to follow the guidelines established by the auditor," she said.

She said she was disappointed the township will have to pay the state for another single year audit, which cost the township $6,000 for the 2007 audit.

Van Nest and Trustee Joe Kiss, and Gray and Trustee Rodney Graffis,  have not gotten along since Van Nest and Kiss were elected a couple of years ago. Trustee meetings are frequently disrupted by allegations of financial wrongdoing or other alleged abuses that bog down public business, including trustees' refusal to pay the bills earlier this year.

"They have wasted way too much time attacking my credibility," she said of Gray and Graffis. "These guys need to focus on other things for the betterment of the township," said Van Nest.

Kiss said he is confident Van Nest is doing her job properly.

"The audit will put to rest any concerns about the finances of the township," he said. "I have 100 percent confidence in Julie. She crosses all her t's and dots all her i's."

The auditor in the 2007 single year audit found that Grafffis should not have been reimbursed $20,174.04 by the township to cover out-of-pocket costs of health insurance premiums he said he was making. The township reimburses trustees for out-of-pocket costs of health insurance premiums if they are denied or opt out of coverage from their primary employer. The audit found that Graffis's health insurance was actually part of his primary employer's benefit package and was paid for by his employer.

The Lucas County prosecutor's office has said Graffis does not have to repay the township because House Bill 458 releases him and other officials in Ohio who may have done the same thing.

Still, the auditor stands by the audit's findings for recovery and says Graffis is not covered by the legislation and must repay the township.

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