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Prosecutor’s office investigating CGPD expenditures

COAL GROVE — The Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating whether or not a former Coal Grove Police Chief made unauthorized purchases using a village bank account, although the officer says all transactions were for department expenses.

A report filed last week with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office by current chief Eric Spurlock contends former police chief Jason Bloomfield opened a bank account under his name and the Coal Grove Police Department. The report states that Bloomfield made several purchases to restaurants and florists as well as cash withdrawals between Sept. 13, 2007 and Dec. 29, 2009. The checks total $1,096.93.

“From what I gather, all they are looking at is where the money came from and what it was used for,” Bloomfield said. “All the statements were mailed to the townhouse. … This is definitely nothing that was hidden.”

Bloomfield is no longer employed by the village. He resigned in late December 2009 to begin working at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Ky.

Coal Grove Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Fields said the expenditures were noticed during a routine state audit. That audit is still considered open and the state has not made it public.

The village police department turned the matter over to sheriff’s office which performed a preliminary investigation before sending the information to the prosecutor’s office, where representatives say the matter is still under investigation.

Spurlock said the report was essentially filed to keep the village from having to undergo a costly special audit from the state auditor’s office.

The auditor’s office had asked the police department to investigate but Spurlock refused, calling it a conflict of interest, he said.

Jeannie Folley, deputy press secretary for Ohio State Auditor Mary Taylor, declined to comment on the audit because it is ongoing. In general, an entity would be charged more for a special audit to determine if there was fraud or money taken. The cost varies, Folley said.

The checking account was originally created to handle fees that are paid by insurance companies when the police department provides them with accident reports, Bloomfield said, adding that these are usually only for a few dollars each but add up over time.

The transactions in question were to pay for dinners during training sessions, compensate officers who didn’t get paid but had to attend mandatory training sessions and to send flowers if someone in the department lost a family member, Bloomfield said.

The checks include a $60 check to Weber’s Florist on Sept. 13, 2007, $16.25 for Corner Diner on Dec. 13, 2007, $16.15 to Corner Diner Sept. 2, 2008, $14.62 to Corner Diner on Sept. 4, 2008, $6.91 for Corner Diner on Sept. 26, $28.33 for Big Boy on Sept. 26, 2008, $15 to Coal Grove LL Cheer on Sept. 30, 2008, $66.15 to Giovanni’s Oct. 24, 2008, $41 to National City Bank Oct. 27, 2008, $100 to National City Bank Oct. 28, 2008, $60 to Weber’s on Dec. 9, 2008, $127.05 to Weber’s Florist on April 22, 2009, $55.76 to Forth’s Foodfair on May 19, 2009, $19.07 to Corner Diner on Jun. 15, 2009, $26.32 to Corner Diner June 27, 2009, $70.20 and another check for $80 to Weber’s Florist on Nov. 24, 2009, $80 to Weber’s Florist on Dec. 2, 2009, and a money withdrawal from National City Bank for $214.12 on Dec. 29.

Spurlock said he does not know whether or not the checking account was authorized by the village. Bloomfield is adamant that it was.

The current chief adamantly defended his former co-worker.

“Jason did not steal no money,” Spurlock said. “Maybe he used bad judgment, but he did not steal no money.”

Attorney Mark McCown who represents the village in legal matters declined go into detail about the matter.

“The Village does not comment on ongoing matters of personnel which are privileged under Ohio law,” McCown said.

Several calls made to Mayor Larry McDaniel were not returned.