EAST CLEVELAND, OH – The General Assembly of Ohio gave the Auditor of State the duty of auditing every government agency “inside” the state annually or a minimum of every two years. East Cleveland’s 2014 audit was released on May 15, 2018 three years after David Yost in his official capacity was supposed to deliver it.
The city is in fiscal emergency for the second time since 1988. Betty Montgomery was the Republican state auditor who released the city from fiscal emergency in February 2006. But she did it without providing the incoming mayor and council with a current audit. The city’s last financial audit was done by Republican State Auditor Jim Petro in 2001. He did a two-part performance audit for 2002 – 2003. But this writer served as the city’s mayor between 2006 and 2009; and my audits were released by Yost in June 2012 nearly three years after I left office.
While the Auditor of State is Ohio’s top accountability watchdog, the attorney general who’s supposed to make sure Yost performs the duties of the office, Richard Michael DeWine, never filed “dereliction of duty” charges against him for failing to perform duties that were mandated by law. Yost is trying to replace DeWine as attorney general and DeWine wants to lead Ohio as governor.
The now outdated and 4-year-old information in the 2014 audit Yost conducted doesn’t offer East Cleveland residents, or federal, state and county officials who need the information to evaluate their own relationships with the city, a current perspective of its finances. Nor does it offer a full-scope perspective of how the city’s mayor, council and municipal court judge are allocating funds for services.
The 2014 audit of the city’s finances describes conditions where former Mayor Gary Norton, and now Brandon King, authorized employees to be paid who aren’t punching time clocks to determine their start and end times. The audit notes that employees are being paid bi-weekly within their salary ranges but there’s no way to determine what time they arrived or left for work; or whether they were absent. The effect of not keeping accurate records, the audit revealed, is employees being paid for hours they didn’t work.
Yost reported in 2014 that Municipal Court Judge Will Dawson wasn’t reconciling bank records. The same problem existed under former Judge Una Keenon. Auditors learned that Keenon was letting employees borrow money and would hold up making daily bank deposits until the money was repaid. Dawson lost $8000 when he recently let a lone female court employee drive bank deposits to a local bank. She was robbed getting out of her car.
In essence, the 2014 audit revealed that there are absolutely zero internal controls in how either King or Dawson are managing employees to perform duties in the manner spelled out by law. Council, under Joie Graham as president, seems unconcerned. She didn’t schedule budget hearings last year or this year; and meet with any of the city’s department heads. They just passed the budget the mayor handed them unamended.
The same dereliction was found in how Norton and King have been spending federal funds; which is now the reason FBI agents have built a case against Vanessa Veals and others involved in her misuse of federal funds.
The audit reported the following about jpe the current and last mayor and council are spending federal grant funds.
“Controls were not in place to ensure accurate reporting of federal award program names, CFDA numbers, award clusters and the amount passed through to subrecipients on the SEFA.”
The disbursement of federal funds to “sub-recipients” will be discovered in the checks individual vendors have cashed from the city of East Cleveland.
The 2014 audit paints an extremely bleak and incompetent picture of the city and court’s top two managers.
Steve Dettelbach – when he served as an assistant U.S. Attorney – used information from an audit this writer requested Petro to conduct of the $3.2 million no bid contract convicted Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor delivered to OMI / CH2M Hill of Aurora, Colorado.
King and Dawson may not fully-understand the scope of what the most recent audit reveals; but the findings are the type state auditors have reported to the FBI in the past.
Veals’ recent interaction with FBI agents who escorted her for questioning from her home should offer both of the city’s elected officials some insight into a stark reality that reading, mastering and complying with the governing documents they swore to obey in their oaths of office was a good idea.