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Statement from Auditor of State Mary Taylor
Auditor of State Mary Taylor issued the following statement regarding the release of the special audit of the Ohio Attorney General’s office:
“As elected officials, we have an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and uphold the integrity of the office we are elected to serve, unfortunately, Marc Dann did not pass these tests.
The special audit my office conducted focused on the financial expenditures at the attorney general’s office between January 8, 2007 and May 14, 2008, in consultation with the task force we looked at several high-risk areas where there were allegations of misspending including:
- Travel and Personal Reimbursement Payments;
- Vehicle Purchases;
- ODOT Airplane and other Aircraft Expenditures;
- Crime Victims Funds Expenditures;
- And other Fund Expenditures.
What we found was not surprising and not unlike what you have already heard here today; there was either a general lack of understanding or a blatant disregard for the law and for how you run a public office.
Some of the significant findings from our special audit involve the legal requirements that govern the nature and use of expenditures from various funds under the control of Dann’s office.
Our auditors discovered that the office spent a significant amount of money from restricted funds that did not comply with the stated purpose for which the fund was established.
These expenditures were for vehicle purchases, grants to non-profit organizations, cash awards to individuals for distinguished service and certain miscellaneous expenses.
While these expenditures are not considered illegal, they were misused. We are issuing findings for adjustments totaling $661,834.
To address the findings for adjustment, the office will have to charge the expenses to unrestricted funds or another allowable fund and return the monies to the restricted funds to be used for their intended purpose.
For example, during the audit period the office purchased 99 vehicles, totaling more than $1.9 million from 24 different dealerships throughout the state. Based on the location or section to which the vehicles were assigned, we identified 16 vehicle purchases, totaling $308,968, which were paid from an inappropriate funding source.
- 12 vehicles were paid for out of the Law Enforcement Improvement Fund, money designated for law enforcement training and crime laboratories not SUV’s;
- Three vehicles from the Charitable Law Fund; and
- One vehicle from the Consumer Protection Fund.
The spending continued until Dann’s last day. Our special audit identifies six expenditures of $25,000 each from the Consumer Protection Fund that were distributed as Financial Literacy Grants from the office. The vouchers were processed in the state accounting system on May 14, 2008, Dann’s last official day in office. There is no authority in state law for these grants to be paid out of the Consumer Protection Fund. We have issued a finding for adjustment for $150,000 in favor of the Consumer Protection Fund.
The final finding for adjustment of $202,866 resulted from 70 expenditures in the General Holding Account. For example, Dann spent more than $20,000 to purchase a police cruiser for the Youngstown Police Department.
Although this fund is to be used for disbursement of court-ordered settlements, the office spent freely from this fund sending monies to a variety of not-for-profit organizations and individual law enforcement officers. Again, it was determined the payments violated the restrictions for the use of the fund pursuant to Ohio law so we are issuing a finding for adjustment in favor of the General Holding Account.
In addition to the findings for adjustment, we also note several areas where there is the potential to misuse taxpayer funds if the office does not more closely monitor the use of the state airplane, cell phone and BlackBerry access and use of the office credit card.
In the little over one year Marc Dann was in office, he took 16 flights on the state plane. In reviewing state plane usage by the attorney general’s office, we identify 12 payments to ODOT totaling $155,222 for 19 flights between the dates of July 31, 2007 and May 2, 2008. Sixteen of the flights were related to Dann’s travel, and our evaluation of these flights identifies the following audit concerns:
- Individuals not employed by the office or another relevant entity accompanied Dann on three flights; on two flights a family member accompanied Dann and on one flight Dann’s personal attorney accompanied him. No public purpose for having these individuals on the flight could be identified.
- Furthermore, Dann’s schedule did not indicate official state business or other activities that supported a business or public purpose for using the state airplane on two flights.
- And finally, Dann’s use of the state plane on two occasions suggests that it was used for personal convenience. For each of the flights, the plane departed from Columbus to pick-up Dann in Youngstown. On the second occasion, Dann traveled to Columbus via automobile the day following the flight. At approximately $2,400 and $2,300 per flight, this does not appear to be a prudent use of state resources.
Since office documentation for the flights did not contain information such as the purpose of the flights, the individuals on board or an explanation of the decision to use air travel versus other less costly modes of transportation - the office cannot convincingly demonstrate the flights were a prudent use of state resources. We recommend the office evaluate its current policies, practices and procedures regarding the use of the state airplane.
We also recommend in our report the office monitor cell phone use more closely.
We found a troubling increase in cell phone and BlackBerry purchases in the Dann administration compared to the prior administration.
Under Attorney General Petro’s administration in FY 2006, the office paid a total of $231,563 for phone usage. Our audit notes the Dann administration maintained 241 BlackBerrys and 56 cell phones that totaled $618,584 in phone usage in FY 2007 – a 167 percent increase in Dann’s first year in office – and $779,889 in FY 2008 through May 31, 2008 – an increase of 26 percent.
One could ask the question here, “Is this extraordinary increase in cell phone and BlackBerry usage necessary?”
We recommend the office evaluate operational needs and determine what level of cell phone use is appropriate to meet office objectives.
Finally, we looked at payment card usage at the office and found there were 39 instances where assets with a high risk of misappropriation like cameras, TVs, DVD players, GPS devices and other electronic equipment were not properly documented, nor tracked.
This illustrates the office must do a better job of tracking assets, especially those more prone to theft or misuse.
Unfortunately, as we have reported today the Dann administration used poor administrative judgment and, in many cases, showed a blatant disregard for the use of public tax dollars.
I want to make clear that our report is not an indictment of the many honest, hard-working individuals at the attorney general’s office.
However, the misdeeds of a few have cast doubt on the integrity of the office.
It is my hope that this report will help the next administration restore the public trust in the important work that takes place at the attorney general’s office.”