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Bellaire Audit Confirms Former Utility Clerk’s Theft
Columbus – More than $18,000 in utility payments went into the pockets of the Village of Bellaire’s (Belmont County) former utility clerk, as confirmed in an audit of the village released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
“As former Governor and State Auditor James Rhodes once said, ‘Don’t lie to the people and keep your hands out of the till’,” Auditor Yost said. “Thanks to the good work of local law enforcement and my staff, Flaherty is doing the time for her crimes against taxpayers.”
Former Utility Clerk Lisa Flaherty was responsible for collecting and posting utility payments and preparing deposits to the village’s utility bank account. During the course of the village’s financial audit, auditors from the firm Rea & Associates found that some utility collection bank deposits did not match the amounts posted to the department’s computer system. Further work by the firm determined that $18,125 in collections were not deposited in the village’s utility bank account.
Auditors found 87 instances of shortages in customer accounts – 61 shortages totaling $10,835 in 2011 and 26 shortages totaling $7,290 in 2012. Of these amounts, a total of $333 were posted to Flaherty’s personal utility account.
A finding for recovery in the total amount of $18,125 was issued against Flaherty. In conjunction with Belmont County Prosecutor Christopher Berhalter and Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk, the Auditor of State’s office conducted a formal investigation. Flaherty failed to report to work on April 7, 2012, the day after the Auditor of State’s office was notified of the missing funds.
On May 24, 2012, the Auditor of State’s office sent two officers from the Special Investigations Unit to Binghamton, New York and they worked with local law enforcement to apprehend Flaherty. She faced three charges: 1) a third degree felony of tampering with evidence; 2) a third degree felony of theft in office; and 3) a forth degree felony of tampering with records. On November 19, 2012, she was sentenced to 18 months in jail. In addition, Flaherty’s OPERS account was frozen, and the funds will be used to pay a large portion of the findings.
A full copy of this audit may be accessed online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 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.