Thursday, February 20, 2014

Daily News Reports Decatur County Auditor Violated Law

From the Greensburg Daily News:

In a special investigation report, a state agency has alleged that former Decatur County Auditor Bridgett Weber violated state law in 2011 when she padded her salary and the salary of five deputies in her office by a combined $37,500 without approval from the Decatur County Council.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts, which audits governmental units including cities, counties and schools, alleged that Weber, who now serves as Greensburg clerk-treasurer, took money from the Plat Book Maintenance Fund to pay herself an additional $17,000, and five deputies an additional $20,500 beyond what the Council had approved in its salary ordinance.

The SBOA has forwarded its report to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and Decatur County Prosecutor Jim Rosenberry. Rosenberry said he is leaning toward asking the court to appoint a special prosecutor to determine what, if any, criminal charges be filed.

Weber, who has reached an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office to repay the $17,000, said she had received verbal approval from the County Council in 2010 to increase her salary with money from a fund that is not supported by property tax receipts.

In another unusual move, the Decatur County Council in September 2013 amended the salary ordinance for 2011 to retroactively approve the higher compensation Weber paid to the deputy auditors, meaning they do not have to pay back the extra money they received. The Council did not, however, retroactively approve the higher compensation for Weber.

Weber told the Daily News that she believes the Council singled her out because she took the action that resulted in the higher salaries for the auditor’s office staff, whereas the deputy auditors merely received the higher salaries. Weber also said, however, that she believes the Council is punishing her because of intra-party politics and that her attorney told her that the incident resembles a “witch hunt.”

The SBOA report also alleges that Weber violated state law when she failed to seek City Council approval to increase salaries for four employees in the prosecutor’s office and the probation department by nearly $55,000. According to the report, a deputy prosecuting attorney in 2011 received an additional $5,200, an office administrator an extra $11,900 from the Marijuana Eradication Program Fund, while two probation officers received another $13,000 and $24,400 from the Probation Administration Fund.

An SBOA spokeswoman said it appears as though the prosecutor’s office properly asked Weber to seek approval from the County Council to have the salary ordinance amended, but Weber simply amended the salaries without getting Council approval.

Weber said that she was under the impression and had previously been told by the SBOA that when the prosecutor’s office or judges send her paperwork seeking that employee salaries be increased, that she does not need to seek Council approval.

Tammy White, the SBOA’s director of county services, said an experienced auditor should know proper salary ordinance procedures. After all, the auditor deals with the county’s salary ordinance every year, she said.

“The former auditor really should have known,” White said.

As for the County Council retroactively amending the salary ordinances, White said the SBOA issued no finding.

“We are not pursuing it further,” she said. “None of this happens routinely, thankfully.”