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Audit Finds Former Treasurer of Harrison Regional Airport Authority Improperly Paid Herself Over $6,000
Columbus – Auditor of State Keith Faber today issued the 2016 and 2017 audit on the Harrison County Regional Airport Authority, which uncovered that the former treasurer, Tanya Burgess, overpaid either herself or her husband a total of $6,063.
“This individual took every opportunity she had to defraud taxpayers,” Auditor Faber said. “This abuse found by our audit is appalling and I recommend that local officials respond to these issues by implementing strict internal controls around awarding contracts and payroll.”
In 2017, Burgess wrote three checks to herself totaling $4,000. According to her, she wrote the checks to pay a contractor in cash for work performed on behalf of the Authority. Burgess stated that the contractor requested cash payment. She provided a signed statement from the contractor indicating he accepted the cash payment and briefly describing the work they performed. Burgess ultimately admitted that the contractor did not exist and that she cashed the checks for personal use.
On December 3, 2019, Burgess pled guilty to Theft in Office, a felony of the fourth degree, in Harrison County Common Pleas Court following an investigation by the Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit. The Court ordered Burgess to pay $3,000 in restitution to the Authority, which she did on February 11, 2020.
Additionally, auditors found that during 2016 and 2017, Burgess reimbursed herself $280 of expenses she incurred personally on-behalf of the Authority. However, the voucher packet, which normally contains documentation to support the expenditure, did not contain receipts to show that Burgess personally paid for the items. Without the documentation, it was not possible for auditors to determine if the expenditures were for a proper public purpose.
In light of these facts, Auditor Faber issued a finding for recovery against Burgess for $1,280 in favor of the Authority.
In September of 2017, the unsigned minutes of Authority’s board meeting on September 4, provided for the audit by Burgess, indicated that the Board increased the Treasurer’s hourly wages from $10 to $20, which was retroactive for three months. Burgess calculated and paid herself the retroactive pay increase. In reality, the actual signed minutes of the board meeting for that day indicated the pay increase, but had no mention of a retroactive aspect to the increase. This resulted in an overpayment to Burgess of $769.
Auditor Faber issued an additional finding for recovery for $769 against Burgess in favor of the authority.
Additionally, Burgess’s husband, Gregory Burgess, contracted with the Authority to provide electrical work in 2015. The final contract amount was $13,755. However, the amount paid to Gregory Burgess aggregated to $14,495 – a $740 overpayment. Also, Gregory Burgess received a reimbursement for cookies for $49 that the Board did not approve. The reimbursement also was not included in the subsequent list of bills approved by the Board at their meeting on September 14, 2017.
Auditor Faber issued an additional finding for recovery against Gregory Burgess for $789 in favor of the Authority. Mr. Burgess repaid the entire finding for recovery on March 21, 2020.
Tanya Burgess is repaying the findings for recovery against her through an approved payment plan.
A full copy of the 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 Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.