LAWRENCE COUNTY Funding sought for new audit of Felasco
Commissioners want the state attorney general to investigate other functions of the treasurer's office.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA STAFF
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners are looking at every possible funding source before deciding if there will be an expanded audit of the county treasurer's office.
Commissioner Steve Craig said he contacted the county district attorney and the county insurance carrier to see if either will help pay for an audit covering Gary Felasco's entire 49 months as county tax claim director.
District Attorney Matthew Mangino made a formal request for an expanded audit after Felasco was charged with theft, embezzlement and other charges earlier this month.
According to court papers, Felasco is accused of taking more than $40,000 from October 2003 to December 2003.
Police said Felasco, who is also the elected county treasurer, would pocket the cash and then substitute checks mailed to the treasurer's office to balance out the books each day.
Those who paid by mail would end up on the county's delinquent tax list, court papers said. Felasco would later delete those names from the delinquent list, according to prosecutors.
Here are concerns
Commissioners have said they are concerned about the cost of an expanded audit and worry it could hinder the prosecution's case.
Even though they are searching for extra funding, Craig said he expects the county will bear most of the cost of any additional audit.
Commissioner Dan Vogler said they are still waiting for a proposal from Packer Thomas, a forensic auditing firm that discovered the money missing, outlining the scope and cost of another audit. That company was hired last year after Felasco was removed as county tax claim bureau director.
Commissioner Ed Fosnaught also suggested they contact the Pennsylvania attorney general to look at other functions of Felasco's office such as bingo and hunting and dog licenses. Those things were not part of the original audit.
Commissioners removed Felasco from tax claim in March 2004 when it was revealed that he had not paid taxes on his New Castle home since 2000.
An improper court stay was placed on county records for the land and house, preventing it from going to a tax sale for nonpayment.
Felasco remains the elected county treasurer, but commissioners decided last week to put his paycheck in an escrow account until the criminal charges are resolved. They say the money can be used to pay restitution to the county if Felasco is convicted.