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Former Village of Smithfield Employees Owe $43,479
Columbus – A group of former Smithfield (Jefferson County) employees owe the village $43,479, according to a report released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
Auditors uncovered $26,432 in overpayments made from 2011 through 2013 and found a former police chief entered into an unlawful public contract by selling his SUV to the village.
The village failed to maintain financial records for the third straight period, forcing the Auditor’s office to once again construct them based on bank statements. The village has spent the past five years on the Auditor’s “unauditable” list and was placed in fiscal emergency on Feb. 19, 2015.
“Incompetency has plunged the village into a dark age of financial accounting,” Auditor Yost said. “Even worse, the absence of an accounting system has given way to the misspending of tens of thousands of public dollars.”
Auditors learned the village hired then-councilmember and former Mayor Patricia Freeland in 2012 to reconstruct the village’s 2010 financial records, although she never did. Freeland should have earned $7,500 during 2012 for her work on council and reconstructing records, but the village paid her $12,100 – an overpayment of $4,600.
The village also overpaid former clerk Janice McCoy by a total of $10,077 during 2011 and 2012 before she resigned from the position. Overpayments continued to her successor, Deborah Coconougher, who received $11,755 that she did not earn from 2012 through 2013.
In a separate finding, auditors determined that former Police Chief Robert Mieczkowski sold a used Chevy Tahoe to the village in 2013 for a price of $12,000. As a public official, Mieczkowski was prohibited by state law from making the sale because it constitutes an unlawful interest in a public contract. The village also paid Mieczkowski $500 more than the agreed-upon price.
Additionally, auditors discovered the village mayor’s court collected but did not deposit $4,547 during 2011. McCoy was responsible for processing and depositing the funds at the time.
Auditors issued findings for recovery in the following amounts:
- Janice McCoy: $14,624
- Robert Mieczkowski: $12,500
- Deborah Coconougher: $11,755
- Patricia Freeland: $4,600
Mieczkowski was convicted of one fifth-degree felony charge of having an unlawful interest in a public contract. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 26.
McCoy, Coconougher and Freeland faced charges related to their failure to remit $9,454 in income taxes to the state during the period. Stephanie Anderson of the Auditor’s office served as special prosecutor for the cases.
A full copy of this 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 5,900 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.