Coming Friday: Lawrence County Audits Shows Lacks Internal controls of county funds
LAWRENCE COUNTY - JUNE 14, 2023 - Lawrence County Zephyr is looking over three different audits that have been released this week by the Indiana State Board of Accounts on Lawrence County Auditor Jessica Staggs, Lawrence Sheriff's Department and other grant recipients.
Lawrence County Commissioners
The latest audit results show deficiencies with Lawrence County Auditor's office, Lawrence County Commissioners, Lawrence County Council members, Lawrence County Sheriff's Department under former Sheriff Mike Branham, and the county's ability to keep grant funds properly accounted for.
Lawrence County Zephyr will try and release the details of the latest audit on Friday.
Last year's audit has shown deficiencies that have existed in the Lawrence County Auditor's office under former Auditor Jody Edwards, and current auditor Jessica Staggs which included overspending the COVID Relief Funds in 2022.
The county received $1,481,642 in CARES Act Funds for COVID - 19 and expenditures of $149,734 were inappropriately claimed to various funds. The county over spent the CARES Act Funds by an estimated $200,000.
The full time Lawrence County employees received the CARES Act stipends for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 15, 2022, the media and public were asked to leave the room of a Lawrence County Commissioners meeting while county officials, were briefed on the audit of the CARES ACT funds.
Lawrence County Auditor Jessica Staggs
The CARES Act funding was given by Lawrence County officials even though non-profits, who already received additional CARES Act funds from the federal government.
Only one ambulance service in Lawerence County received CARES Act Funds; Priority Ambulance Service. Lawrence County's IU Lifeline Ambulance service and the county's nine volunteer fire department did not receive any CARES Act funding, even though they were on the front lines of the pandemic.
This is in addition, to the recently released audit that showed Lawrence County Sheriff's Department who did not properly administer the Operation Pull Over Grant.
A retired Lawrence County Sheriff Deputy Tim Butcher manipulated the program for his own personal gain for four years from 2017 - 2021.
Former Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham was not aware of Butcher's actions until after Butcher retired and the Indiana Justice Institute, overseer of the program asked for a closer look at the spending of the program.
Indiana State Police investigation of Tim Butcher is underway according to the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
The latest results have highlighted the lack of internal controls in several county offices to make sure taxpayer and grant funds are being properly accounted for.
During the 2023 Budget process Auditor Jessica Staggs released at least three different set of expenditures and income reports, tax levies and other financial information, in order to justify the five percent, pay increases to both county employees and elected leaders.
Lawrence County Council members did not have a clear picture of the financial condition of the county when voting on the budgets of several agencies for the 2023 budget cycle.
The county council increased some tax levies, and decreased other tax levies, during the 2023 budget cycle.
A public hearing was held on the tax levies at the beginning of the budget process. However, a public hearing was not held in regard to the tax levy changes, and changes to the proposed budget that was made by the Lawrence County Council during the budget process as required by Indiana State law.
Lawrence County president Scott Smith did allow the Lawrence County Health Department to speak after the changes to the tax levies was already changed. The Lawrence County Health Department levy was decreased by 26 percent.
Most of the county's Republican office holders received over 20 percent pay increases over the last two years.
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