Written by Kelly Kaczala
February 19, 2010
Jerusalem Township trustees want former Trustee Rodney Graffis to reimburse the township $20,174.04 that an audit in 2007 showed he had improperly received for health insurance coverage.
Trustee Joe Kiss said trustees plan to hire an attorney to seek recovery.
Trustees will begin interviewing candidates for legal counsel, he added.
Jerusalem Township reimburses township trustees for the out-of-pocket cost of health insurance premiums if they are denied or opt out of coverage from their primary employer. But a 2007 state audit showed that Graffis, who was defeated for re-election last November, was already getting health insurance coverage through his union.
Kiss had expected the Lucas County prosecutor’s office, which is the township’s attorney, would seek recovery from Graffis. But just five months after the audit’s finding, the prosecutor’s office said the Legislature had passed a bill that released Graffis, and other officials in Ohio with similar findings, from having to pay back the money.
House Bill 458 prohibited both the attorney general and county prosecutor from enforcing the state auditor’s findings for recovery.
“Why should we let Graffis keep hard earned taxpayer money that he should never have received in the first place,” said Kiss. “He didn’t have out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance, so he shouldn’t have been reimbursed by the township. It’s not his money. If this had been anyone else, we’d be in jail already.”
Township Fiscal Officer Julie Van Nest said she received a letter from the prosecutor’s office a few weeks ago that reiterated its earlier position that it would not seek recovery from Graffis.
Kiss said the prosecutor’s opinion doesn’t matter to the board of trustees.
“Just because they’re not going after it doesn’t mean we can’t go after it,” he said. “It belongs to the taxpayers. I think we should try and do everything we can to get that money back, regardless of what the attorney general or prosecutor says.”
Auditor Mary Taylor stands by the earlier finding, even though the state nor the county will seek recovery.
The township expects a state audit of its 2008 books to be completed soon. That could also show Graffis, who was still being reimbursed for health insurance in 2008, had improperly received payments from the township. Former trustee Joe Gray had requested the audit last year.