Taylor Releases Village of Benton Ridge Audit

Sewer billing system lacks proper oversight, council members overpaid

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Columbus -

Auditor of State Mary Taylor today released the biennial audit for the Village of Benton Ridge located in Hancock County. Auditors allege village clerk/treasurer Gail Schoonover knowingly recorded nearly $1,600 in payments to her personal sewer utility account when in fact those payments were not made.

A review of Schoonover’s sewer accounts from January 2004 through September 2006 shows she owed the village $1,594.83; however, since the initiation of the audit this amount has been repaid in full. The report is now in the hands of local prosecutors and has been referred to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“It is essential for Benton Ridge council members to increase the oversight of village accounts as a deterrent to the loss or theft of public money,” Taylor said. “Proper safeguards will help the village protect these public funds and ensure that they are being used for their intended purposes.”

A finding for recovery was also issued against six village council members totaling $5,075 for salary overpayments. In 2004, council members voted to increase their pay, but state law says elected officials are not entitled to salary increases until a new term begins.

Taylor’s office also found a lack of oversight in the sewer utility billing and collections system and made the following recommendations:

  • Purchasing software to replace a paper system for billing and collections.
  • Requiring utility bills to include a pre-printed account number.
  • Charging a uniform delinquency fee to all late payments.
  • Crediting payments received on delinquent accounts to delinquent balances rather than current balances.
  • Purchasing a secured drop box for residents to pay bills.  Residents were using a mail slot at Village Hall where payments were left on the floor until someone picked them up.   

A copy of the complete audit is available online at http://www.auditor.state.oh.us/AuditSearch/Reports/2007/Village_of_Benton_Ridge_04_05-Hancock.pdf