Status of $250,000 undecided

Published 11:13 am Thursday, March 26, 2015

The status of a $250,000 check given to the county following the sale of the Sherman Thompson Towers still remains in limbo after the county waited 16 months for a ruling from the state auditor. Now the state auditor says it is up to the county prosecutor to issue that opinion.

“We understand … your desire to expend the sum for the benefit of your county, but only in a matter that is legally appropriate,” according to the March 18 letter from Robert Hinkle, chief deputy auditor for the state. “The auditor of state’s office cannot provide you, however, with legal advice as the manner in which you should address this situation.”

Approximately two years ago, the county and the city of Ironton both received checks for $250,000 following the sale of the Ironton senior complex to LM Associates. Both checks were issued by LM that had managed the towers for decades. The city spent its check, but the county auditor’s office was concerned that if the county spent its money now, it might face repayment at a later date.

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On Oct. 22, 2013, chief deputy auditor Chris Kline wrote to Ohio of State Auditor David Yost detailing the situation. Periodically Kline would contact the state office but received no answer. Another letter was sent to Yost’s office by the county commission on Dec. 24, 2014. That was also unanswered until the commission was in the process of sending a third letter. Then the auditor’s office responded.

In his letter Hinkle apologized “for the failure of our office to respond promptly to your communications. These omissions are inconsistent with the normal practice of the Auditor of State’s Office.”

After the state auditor’s office receives Anderson’s opinion, it will review the opinion and make comments.

The reason for this is the state auditor cannot make a decision for the county, according to Kline.

“That would be operational,” he said. “All they can do is take a decision that is made and see if it is in compliance with the law. If we do this, will you allow it or take exception to it in an audit.”

Now the commission, which meets today, will have to make a formal request to Anderson.

“Then we will issue an opinion after that,” he said. “We will issue it within a week.”

The check remains in escrow.