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Probe of Liberty post office closes with no charges filed

By Linda Linonis

Saturday, August 8, 2009

By Linda Linonis

LIBERTY — An investigation involving a $19,791 shortfall at the former Liberty Township post office is officially closed.

Its closure is confirmed in a letter sent to township and Trumbull County prosecutor’s offices by Leo A. Fernandez, forensic accountant in the Criminal Justice Section, Special Prosecutions Unit of the Ohio attorney general’s office.

The post office, which operated in the Liberty Township Administration Building at 1315 Hubbard-Church Hill Road, closed Nov. 19, 2007. It had opened in 1979. An audit from Sept. 25, 2006, to Sept. 27, 2007, revealed the deficit.

Liberty Township police and the prosecutor’s office were involved in an investigation of the loss of money and merchandise at the post office. They encountered obstacles when trying to subpoena information from the U.S. Postal Service.

Mark Finamore, law director for the township, said the forensic accountant’s investigation hoped to determine how the shortfall occurred. But the investigation was not able to gather the needed information.

The letter, in part, reads: “The township did not have a policy-and-procedure manual, which required township employees operating the contract postal unit to follow specific procedures related to the sales, receipt and inventory of stamp and supply stock items.”

The accountant noted that a monthly procedure would have made it possible to identify and reconcile problems quickly.

The letter continues: “The township should have required personnel to perform monthly physical inventories of stamps and supplies and compared the actual results to the perpetual inventory in order to identify and reconcile any variances prior to the annual physical inventory.”

Finamore noted that the forensic accountant did acknowledge that post office personnel had problems with a post-office machine. The machine was described in the letter as a “central processing unit of the post office” and would have provided the necessary accountability for sales and money from stamps and supplies inventories.

The township’s surety bond was exercised to pay what was owed to the U.S. postmaster. No charges were brought against any township employees who worked at the post office.

Liberty Police Chief Richard J. Tisone, who was involved in the investigation, said, “It was a sequence of errors.” He also cited the “antiquated piece of machinery” used in the post office.

Tisone said there was “no day-to-day audit,” which would have caught a problem early on. “There were no checks and balances.”