Fiscal Officer Paid for Hotel Stay, College Tuition with Fire District’s Credit Cards
Columbus – The fiscal officer of a disbanded northeast Ohio fire district charged about $12,000 to the district’s credit cards for personal expenses and failed to document another $10,000 in spending, according to a report released today.
Rosemary Barrett pleaded guilty on Jan. 8, 2018, to a fourth-degree felony count of theft in office for credit card misuse that occurred while she was employed by the Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District in Summit County.
State auditors reported today that Barrett racked up $12,048 in personal charges on the cards from January 2012 through September 2016, when the district ceased operations. The charges covered the cost of gas, meals, garden supplies, a camera, gift cards, a hotel stay and college tuition for a family member.
“Inadequate safeguards opened the door to years of credit card abuse by this corrupt public servant,” Auditor Dave Yost said. “Basic policies and controls are critical for all governments to detect suspicious activity before financial damage occurs.”
Additionally, auditors identified $10,639 in charges that lacked supporting documentation. As a result, they could not determine whether or not the spending served a proper public purpose. The report also names Barrett responsible for $1,952 in late fees and finance charges paid by the fire district.
Auditors issued findings for recovery totaling $24,639 against Barrett, requiring her to repay the amount to Northfield Center Township and Sagamore Hills Township. Judge Alison Breaux of the Summit County Common Pleas Court sentenced Barrett to three years of probation and ordered her to pay restitution. As of Aug. 6, she has repaid $2,499.
Auditor Yost released a special report in 2017 on credit card fraud in governments. The report detailed $1.2 million in thefts and misspending via government credit cards since 2011 and provided a Best Practices newsletter to local officials to safeguard their resources.
Among other things, the Auditor recommends restricting the number of people with access to credit cards, requiring detailed receipts for credit-card transactions, setting spending limits, and a list of proper and improper credit card uses.
House Bill 312, introduced in July 2017 by State Rep. Kirk Schuring (Canton) and Rep. Dave Greenspan (Westlake) with the support of Auditor Yost, established tighter controls over credit cards. It was signed into law in August by Gov. John Kasich.
A full copy of this audit report is available online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.