Special Audits & Investigations
The Public Integrity Assurance
The Public Integrity Assurance Team promotes clean, ethical government; exposes corruption and wrongdoing where it exists; and assists law enforcement and prosecutors in the pursuit of justice.
The team brings together the former Special Audit Section, Special Investigations Unit and portions of the Auditor of State’s legal staff as one team with one mission. Comprised of forensic auditors, investigators and attorneys, the team has decades of experience and working relationships with law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels. Their expertise allows them to take a case from an initial complaint through conclusion. In cases where local officials have conflicts that make them unable to conduct investigations, the Public Integrity Assurance Team brings independence.
Four key leaders
Director Mark Porter
Mark Porter is the director of the Public Integrity team. Porter served in the Secret Service for 26 years. During his tenure, he was detailed to the National Security Council, Executive Office of the President, and Central Intelligence Agency.
Porter began his Secret Service career in 1991 as a special agent assigned to the Columbus Field Office. He has since served in numerous assignments which include Director of Intelligence; Special Agent in Charge-Cincinnati Division; Director, Combating Terrorism Directorate, National Security Council; Deputy Special Agent in Charge-Intelligence Division, Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge-Los Angeles Division and Staff Assistant to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Porter has served within the Executive Office of the President on two occasions. In his second assignment from 2007 – 2009, he was detailed to the National Security Council and served as director for the Combating Terrorism Directorate. During this assignment, he was charged with direct accountability for tracking and monitoring threats to the homeland, U.S. interests abroad, U.S. citizens and facilities, and any threats directed toward U.S. allies.
Upon his retirement from the Secret Service, Porter was a Senior Executive Service member of the U.S. Government serving as the director of the United States Secret Service Intelligence Division. He had direct oversight of the Operations, Risk Management, National Threat Assessment Center and Foreign Assessment and Counterterrorism branches providing guidance and coordination for all protective intelligence investigations and advances.
Deputy Legal Counsel Robert Smith
Robert Smith is deputy legal counsel to Auditor Yost and is one of two lawyers on the team. Smith is frequently called upon to serve as special prosecutor in cases investigated by PIAT. He also is asked to serve as special counsel on other cases where there may be a perception of a conflict between the prosecutor’s office and the individual charged with a crime.
Smith previously served as director of the Fraud and Enforcement Division for the Ohio Department of Insurance, working for the department from 2002 to 2009. He assisted in investigations of fraud committed by consumers, healthcare providers and insurance agents. He previously worked 14 years as chief trial counsel for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Organized Crime Investigations Commission. In that position, he directed investigations into a wide variety of cases under Ohio’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. Smith also worked for the Franklin County prosecutor’s office for 10 years, with more than half of the time spent as head of the economic crime unit.
Deputy Director Randall Turner
Randall Turner is the deputy director of the Public Integrity Assurance Team. He manages the forensic auditors in PIAT and advises them on open fraud cases. Turner has been with the Auditor’s office since 1999. Before joining PIAT, Turner served as the assistant chief auditor of the Central Region of the Auditor’s office, where he managed financial audits of local governments such as school districts, cities, counties, townships and villages.
Chief of Special Investigations Michael Spiert
Michael Spiert is chief of Special Investigation for the Auditor. Spiert is a 2001 graduate of the FBI National Academy. He served at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for 31 years, working in the Corrections, Patrol and Investigative bureaus. He retired as lieutenant commander of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit. Spiert served as an investigator with the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office for five years and was appointed as Chief of Investigations of the Ohio Auditor of State’s Special Investigations in January 2011.
How We Investigate Fraud and Compliance
1. We Receive a Tip
Each year, the Auditor of State’s Office receives hundreds of tips regarding suspected fraud and non-compliance of laws in government. These tips come from many sources, including public employees and concerned citizens as well as state auditors who find suspicious activity in the course of a routine financial audit.
Tips or complaints of fraud and law non-compliance in Ohio’s governments may be made at any time by any public employee or private citizen. Fraud may be reported by using this website, U.S. Mail or via the Auditor of State’s Fraud Hotline.
2. We Evaluate the Tip
The Special Audit Task Force is a group of auditors and investigators led by Auditor Yost who evaluates tips and complaints received by the office. If the Special Audit Task Force decides that a case falls under the authority of the Auditor of State’s Office and involves probable fraud, theft or non-compliance, it is sent to the Public Integrity Assurance Team for further review. Cases that are not subject to the Auditor of State’s authority may be referred to other local, state or federal government agencies, prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
Ohio Fraud Reporting
A public log of fraud reports is available through the Ohio Fraud Report System, which includes the date of the report, the entity complained of, the nature of the complaint, and the status of the review of the complaint. The public log was established through H.B. 66.
3. A Special Audit
&/or Special Investigation Begins
A special audit is a limited-scope examination of financial records and other information designed to investigate allegations of fraud, theft or misappropriation of funds – or to quantify the extent of such losses.
Special audits can be independent, stand-alone examinations, or conducted during the course of a regular financial audit. Independent stand-alone examinations are necessary when an allegation requires extensive detailed testing or if a timely review is not possible during a regular financial audit. When conducted during a regular financial audit, special auditors work with financial auditors to ensure proper testing is done to determine if public funds have been illegally spent or are unaccountable. Separate special audits may be necessary, for example, if an investigation requires significant amounts of detailed testing, or if timely review of the complaint is not possible during the regular audit.
Special investigators work aggressively to root out fraud and public corruption. Investigators gather information that is not readily available during the special audit, which may include bank statements or credit card records that must be obtained through a subpoena. Additionally, investigators may conduct interviews to identify persons responsible for the loss of public funds.
Investigators work closely with special auditors and the Financial Audit Section to determine if criminal activity has occurred. They also promote a coordinated effort with local, state and federal government and law enforcement officials to combat public corruption in Ohio.
4. Case Leads to Prosecution
Once fieldwork has been completed, the Auditor of State’s office will work with county or federal prosecutors to determine the next steps for a case. During each investigation, special auditors and investigators build a case file containing all information necessary to try a case in court. Prosecutors have the option to work independently or to request the help of a special prosecutor from the Public Integrity Assurance Team. Benefits of a special prosecutor from the Auditor of State’s office is the increased familiarity with an investigation and trial-court expertise in public-sector prosecutions.