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Tri County responds to ODSA findings

The Tri County Community Action board filed its formal response to a recent audit by the Ohio Development Services Agency and pointed its finger squarely at the former director in reply to one issue.

BIRT Denise

DENISE BIRT

A copy of the letter filed Wednesday by attorney Beverly Meyer on the board’s behalf was provided after the Thursday regular meeting and lists responses to 22 instances of misuse or abuse of grant funds detailed in an audit dated May 28.

That audit required Tri County to repay $123,417 to the state agency.

According to the audit, it was the fifth consecutive time the agency was warned about poor handling of grant funds.

The situation culminated earlier this year when Tri County learned it no longer had enough money to continue its day-to-day operations. The board in late March abruptly ended its Meals on Wheels service and placed former executive director Denise Birt on unpaid leave.

Since that time, Tri County has either lost or voluntarily relinquished control of all taxpayer-supported programs it once oversaw.

The attorney’s response letter provides documentation to support some of the items for which ODSA has required payment, but in one case, board chairman Al Evans said, the state needs to look to the executive director for repayment.

According to the findings in the audit, Ms. Birt was overpaid $203.13 per pay period, or a total of $16,463.31, for personal use of an organization-owned vehicle.

“It appears this amount represents the personal use of an agency vehicle,” the original audit reads. “While the amount was taxable, it should not have been included in the executive director’s gross wages. Additionally, the amount represented monthly personal use of a vehicle rather than weekly.”

In response to that finding, which appears at three points in the audit, Ms. Meyer wrote: “The $203.13 received by the executive director each pay period in relation to her personal use of an agency vehicle was allocated among all programs under Code 999. The amount was included in the gross wages of the executive director without knowledge of the board.”

Mr. Evans said the board’s contention is that Ms. Birt should be held personally liable for repayment of that amount.

“We’re saying that she paid herself the money without the approval of the board; get it back from her,” he said during the Thursday meeting.

Mr. Evans said after the meeting that when the audits and investigations are further along that Ms. Birt will be called back and asked to respond to the various findings.

Also during the Thursday meeting, after consulting with attorneys in executive session, the board approved a limited partnership with the Point Village Apartments project of Herman & Kittle Properties Inc. in Russells Point. The agreement would generate approximately $20,000 for the agency, which is saddled with debts to numerous banks and vendors.

The next meeting is set for Thursday, Aug. 21.

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