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Audit: ESC spent $93K in error

Yost says funds paid ESC salaries, benefits and costs

COLUMBUS — According to a new report from the Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost’s office, the Lawrence County Educational Service Center and its former treasurer erroneously spent almost $93,000 in expenses with funds of a now-shuttered charter school that it sponsored.

An audit of the Lawrence County Academy, which closed in June 2017, found that former Treasurer Teresa Lawless used the school’s funds to pay for ESC salaries, benefits and other costs during the 2014 fiscal year.

Lawless served as treasurer of both the ESC and the academy.

“These findings don’t surprise me given this treasurer’s problematic history at the ESC,” Yost said in a news release. “As we continue to unravel the tangled mess she left behind, I expect that additional findings may come to light.”

The financial audit released Friday reports that Lawless charged $86,153 to the academy’s bank accounts for salaries and benefits of two ESC employees who never worked at the school.

The report stated that she also charged the academy $5,978 for some of her own benefits, but the amount should have been covered by the ESC.

Other charges the auditor’s office found to improper included a $775 payment to a consulting company hired by the ESC and a $1,500 payment to the Lawrence County Schools Council of Governments. The ESC is the financial manager of the COG.

Auditors issued a $92,906 finding for recovery against the ESC for the amount owed to the academy.

A separate finding was issued against the Lawrence County Schools COG for the $1,500 payment it received from the academy in error.

Because the academy is closed, repayment is owed to the Ohio Department of Education, Yost’s office said. Lawless and her bonding company are jointly liable for both findings.

A special audit of the ESC released in May 2017 named Lawless as responsible for billing errors and misspending that cost the ESC more than $38,000.

She was also cited for accepting $169,674 in questionable performance incentive payments.

In November 2015, incomplete financial records landed the academy on the auditor’s “unauditable” list.

A full copy of this report is available on the auditor’s website.