News
State Board of Accounts releases comments on Lagro Township records

   by Eric Stearley

On Oct. 29, The Paper published an article about Lagro Township’s annual budget meeting, in which they voted to cut the budget by 28 percent from the previous year. The cuts came after what the board deemed “frivolous” spending by Trustee Andrew Delong and unanswered questions about how funds were being used.

The story quickly caught the eye of a state official.

“The State Board of Accounts was in our courthouse when The Paper came out that week,” said Wabash County Commissioner Scott Givens. “They read the article and they commented, because they were here to see us for something else, and the commissioners were still there in the courthouse. The lady [from the State Board of Accounts] commented on the article.”

Shortly thereafter, Wabash County Prosecutor William C. Hartley, Jr. asked the State Board of Accounts to look into the matter.

On Jan. 5, State Examiner Paul D. Joyce released the agency’s comments. The State Board of Accounts identified five instances of noncompliance, including:

- The records presented for review indicated that disbursements exceeded budgeted appropriations for the Cumulative Fire fund by $18,784 in 2013.

- The Township did not adopt a resolution establishing salaries of Township officers and employees for 2013.

-   Payments made for IT support and service were not supported by a written contract for 2013.

-   The Trustee was not properly bonded for 2013. The Trustee did not obtain an individual Surety Bond.

-   On February 6, 2014, the Trustee purchased a snow plow blade for $4,600. He sold the same plow blade for the same price to the private contractor who plows snow for the Township on February 20, 2014.

According to the report, the investigation was conducted “to determine compliance with applicable Indiana laws and uniform compliance guidelines established by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.” It also noted that because the agency’s “procedures were not designed to opine the Township’s financial statements, we did not follow generally accepted auditing standards,” nor do they express an opinion regarding the financial statement of the township.

In addition to confirming previously reported instances of noncompliance, the report uncovered Delong’s lack of a surety bond. A surety bond works much like an insurance policy for government agencies, ensuring that financial discrepancies and missing funds can be recovered by the agency, in this case, Lagro Township.

Finally, the report noted that the agency’s “procedures were not designed to identify all instances of noncompliance; therefore, noncompliance may exist that is unidentified.”

The State Board of Accounts delivered a preliminary version of the document to the Wabash County Prosecutor’s office in December.

“We are looking into it,” said Hartley. “It’s still a pending investigation in my office.”

On Dec. 3, the contents of the report were discussed with Delong, as well as then-Lagro Township Advisory Board Member Ralph Ranck, who was the first to discover the instances of noncompliance. In accordance with state law, Delong was then given two weeks to respond.

“Any response that we receive from officials would be included in the report, so since there was nothing included in that public document, he did not respond,” said W. Tyler Michael, who assists in overseeing schools and townships for the State Board of Accounts.

The Paper has been unable to reach Delong for comment since the Sept. 17 township budget meeting. 

Annual financial reports filed by the township are available to the public at gateway.ifionline.org.

Posted on 2015 Jan 13