Lawrence County Audit of COVID -19 Funds Concerning -SBOA Report Released
LAWRENCE COUNTY - (March 26, 2022) - The Indiana State Board of Accounts released its findings from a recent audit of COVID 19 Funds and other grants obtained by Lawrence County Departments.
(Lawrence County Commissioners Rodney Fish and Dustin Gabhart told Lawrence County volunteer fire departments they could not access any of the $8.8 Million ARP Funds, and was denied in their request for part of the $1.4 Million in CARES -Act funds even though they responded to several COVID-19 related emergencies)
The county received $1,481,642 in CARES Act Funds for COVID-19 related expenditures. Expenditures for non-payroll expenses totaled $149,734 were inappropriately claimed to various funds. The payroll related reimbursement remained in the County CARES Act Funds and the county spent out of those funds without appropriation.
On December 31, 2020, the CARES Act had a balance of $419,411 remaining in the CARES Act Fund and the county spent out of those funds without appropriation. During 2021 expenditures were made directly out of the CARES Act Funds without appropriation. As of December 31, 2021 the CARES Act fund had a balance of $220,916 which should have been immediately claimed to the county's general fund. This would allow money to be expended for any general unit purpose with appropriation.
The Lawrence County Council had no control over the CARES - Act funds except at one Lawrence County Council meeting when Valarie Luchuaer requested the county council to deny Lawrence County Judge Nathan Nikirk request for $200,000 for a fourth courtroom to be added at the Lawrence County Courthouse Plaza.
Lawrence County Zephyr will be doing several features on the findings in the audit report and allow county official time to respond to the findings.
On March 15, 2022, the public and media was asked to leave the room following the Lawrence County Commissioners meeting for several county officials to learn about the findings.
Lawrence County Zephyr will be reaching out to various county officials outlined in the report to give the time to respond.
Lawrence County Zephyr was contacted by local volunteer fire departments after the Lawrence County Commissioners denied their request for American Rescue Funds and were denied access to CARES - Act Funds.
Lawrence County volunteer firefighters were responding to COVID related emergencies missing work due to COVID 19 exposure and illness being quarantined by health department recommendations. Lawrence County Commissioners decided that COVID - 19 Funds will be used as stipends for county workers.
The only public safety agencies allowed to access CARES-Act funds were Seals Ambulance Service and Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.
(Lawrence County firefighters missed worked after responding to COVID-19 related emergencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only Seals Ambulance Service and Lawrence County Sheriff's department was the only emergency services allowed to access CARES -Act Funds)
The Lawrence County Assessors office was closed during a greater part of the COVID 19 pandemic with the office not available to the general public.
Both North Lawrence Community Schools and Mitchell Community School corporations received COVID-19 funds from Lawrence County Commissioners even though both school corporations received millions in both CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Funds.
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The Lawrence County Commissioner appointed a committee of three people to oversee the CARES - Act dispersal. The three committee members included Eugene McCracken, Jody Edwards and Valarie Luchauer. However, there is no record of any meetings taking place and the funds were solely released by Valarie Luchauer, Lawrence County Emergency Management Director.
These were some of the concerning issues and there were no oversight over the CARES-Act Funds and the lack of open and transperancy among government officials were identified in the report.
Lawrence County Zephyr contacted U.S. Senator Mike Braun, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, and Indiana State Senator Eric Koch officer about how CARES Act money was dispensed in Lawrence County.
Only U.S. Senator Mike Braun office contacted the Lawrence County Zephyr and stated his office will look into the matter.
Lawrence County Zephyr will look farther in the report, and give Lawrence County officials until Monday morning to respond to the findings.