$250K still in limbo

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 19, 2015

The wait continues on whether the county actually can use a quarter of a million dollar gift it got almost two years ago.

Then the county and the city of Ironton each received checks for $250,000 following the sale of the Sherman Thompson Towers, a senior citizen housing complex in Ironton. While the city spent the one it received, county auditor Jason Stephens wanted state auditor Dave Yost to determine whether the county could legally use its money and in what way. The auditor was concerned that if the county spent the check now, it might face repayment at a later date.

On Oct. 22, 2013, chief deputy auditor Chris Kline made that request, periodically contacting the state but never receiving an answer. On Dec. 24, 2014, the commissioners made a second request for an opinion from Yost.

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Sixteen months after Kline’s request, the county received a letter from Robert Hinkle, chief deputy auditor for the state, stating that office cannot provide legal advice. That meant the commission had to ask for a formal opinion from county prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson.

Hinkle did apologize for the delay, saying it was “inconsistent with the normal practice of the auditor of state’s office.”

On Thursday, when contacted by a reporter, Anderson said he had yet to receive a request from the commissioners. On Friday commission president Les Boggs said the request had been sent to Anderson’s office on March 26, but that a second request would be made that day. Anderson got the request that morning.

Despite that delay, there will possibly be another wait because after Anderson’s opinion is received, the state auditor will have to be contacted again.

“We will send his opinion to the auditor of state to see if they are OK with it,” Kline said.

The commissioners will also have to tell Yost how they plan to use the money.

“(The state auditor) can’t make a management decision for us,” Kline said. “That is for our legal counsel. But they can say if it is wrong.”

Ways of spending the $250,000, if the county is allowed, have included supplementing the sheriff’s current budget or funding partially the $1.3 million estimated to move the county jail to the now closed state-owned juvenile facility in Scioto County.

So far the only money the commission has allocated for that move is a disputed $500,000 that Boggs said has been set-aside for the sheriff. However, Stephens says that money doesn’t exist because all revenue the county has received so far has been either spent or earmarked.