Commission needs to find $380,000 for audit ruling

Published 12:01 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

In less than a month Lawrence County Commissioners apparently will have to come up with as much as $380,000 to satisfy a state auditing ruling that money from the department of job and family services was incorrectly spent.

Most of the disputed money was distributed during the startup of the Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services in 2011.

“The audit came back that you didn’t use those funds like intended,” former DJFS director Gene Myers said. “They didn’t accept that has been an allowable expenditure for funds.”

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Myers recently retired as DJFS director after 30 years with the department.

According to Myers, $300,000 was taken from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or TANF to pay for training of staff for the county’s EMS during its startup period.

In 2011 the county was forced to create its own EMS following the dissolution of the Southeastern Ohio Emergency Medical Services.

“All those individuals lost their jobs in SEOEMS but were picked up by the EMS,” Myers said. “Most of those folks were unemployed. The agency thought they were eligible because they had lost their jobs for training to avert them from coming on public assistance. Most of them met the guidelines of being 200 percent below the poverty level for funding to help offset for the EMS.”

Also in dispute is $80,000 in TANF funds that went to the 4-E program of the county’s juvenile court

“We tried to provide funding help for their expenses when they were starting the 4-E court,” Myers said. “We used that in order to prevent those kids from coming into our custody.”

Now, at least one commissioner is concerned about repaying the money and meeting the 45-day deadline before penalties are levied.

“That money will have to be likely borrowed,” commissioner Bill Pratt said. “I am a little nervous about borrowing for operating expenses. We would not be borrowing for something purchased. Over time we could split that up in different ways. What was used for the EMS could be paid back through the one-half percent sales tax.”

The county could not borrow money by issuing a bond unless it could be repaid by the end of the calendar year that it was issued, according to Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Burcham.

As far as the juvenile court allotment Pratt said he would like to discuss that with Judge David Payne. As of Friday the 4-E fund had $144,000.

“The agency and the commission will have to come up with a resolution with the issue,” Myers said. “I don’t want to diminish it but this happens all the time all over the state. It is not something that everyone can’t work through. It is not insurmountable.”