State audit issues 5,442 in findings for recovery
Among the items charged to the health district credit card were concert tickets, a watch and groceries.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LISBON -- The special state audit of the Columbiana County Board of Health issued 5,442 in findings for recovery against its health commissioner and a bonding company.
The special audit by the Ohio Auditor's office covered 1996 through 2002. Results were released last week.
The findings against Robert Morehead and Western Surety Co. include 2,857 for items unrelated to the health district. Among them are credit card purchases of a Swiss Army Duetto watch, tickets to a Rolling Stones concert, men's furnishings, groceries and books.
Morehead couldn't be reached to comment.
Also included is 1,368 for illegal expenditure of public money. During the period of the audit, Morehead used the district's credit card to process cash advances totaling 1,746. Receipts were provided to document cash advances totaling 378 of that amount.
"There was no evidence the remaining cash advances were for a district purpose or whether they were reimbursed" by Morehead, the audit says.
Also included in the findings is 913 for gasoline. During the years of the audit, Morehead used a district-issued credit car to buy gasoline in addition to claiming mileage expenses for reimbursement.
Forwarded to prosecutor
The audit says that the results were forwarded to the Columbiana County prosecutor.
Prosecutor Robert Herron couldn't be reached Saturday.
The auditor's office previously said that results of the special audit were turned over to Herron in April and that the material would eventually become a public record if no action were taken.
The auditors compared Morehead's credit card charges with his mileage reimbursements and determined that he was reimbursed 913 for mileage expenses for which he also charged gasoline purchases on the district credit card.
The remaining 304 in findings is for reimbursements received by Morehead for items that had already been paid on the district credit card.
The review of Morehead's credit card expenditures also found that more than 13,958 in credit card purchases and cash advances made by Morehead were unsupported by receipts, a special state audit found.
Of the 51,072 in credit card purchases and cash advances by Morehead during the years of the audit, 13,958 was unsupported by any receipt. An additional 5,916 was supported only by a signed credit card slip without the detail of purchase presented.
"Most notably, only 422 in meals were supported by detailed receipts," the audit says. "Meals totaling 958 had no receipt and meals totaling 5,033 included just the credit card receipt without the detail of items purchased."
The auditors wrote that they had planned to review Morehead's meal purchases in detail after interviewing board members who told them there wasn't any written authorization for in-county meals.
But while conducting the audit, they received a letter from the board that said that Morehead has had in the past "discretionary authority to purchase lunches and dinners in county."
The audit found that at times, Morehead was charging an average of 30 per week in meals and one night's hotel stay per week.
"Because the board informed us these charges were appropriate for Mr. Morehead to perform his duties, we did not perform any detailed test of Mr. Morehead's lodging or meal purchases," the auditor's office wrote.
"However, we believe the board should create and enforce a policy for meal charges and include a requirement that detailed receipts be provided."
In October, the state auditor's office advised Herron to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate spending at the health board.
An investigation of health board spending began after a 2004 series of Vindicator stories about county travel expenses and other costs revealed questionable purchases by Morehead.
A 2003 state audit of health board records found questionable spending on books, meals and travel expenses by Morehead. At that time, the state auditor issued findings for recovery of more than 6,300. The majority of those findings, more than 5,800, were against Morehead.