Yost: Ohio to reconcile Niles finances temporarily
Auditor considers city’s current condition unacceptable, deeply concerning
By Jordan Cohen
State fiscal supervisors will reconcile the city’s financial statements with bank records “in the short term” at no cost to Niles, Auditor of State Dave Yost has disclosed in an exclusive interview with The Vindicator.
At last month’s fiscal commission meeting, supervisors revealed records for January were not reconciled and delays were likely for several months, which would place the city at risk of further state-imposed penalties.
The treasurer’s office is required by law to perform monthly record reconciliations, but at the time of the meeting, the office was down to one untrained employee and no treasurer.
With Niles in fiscal emergency since October 2014, Yost considers the current condition unacceptable and deeply concerning.
“How can you monitor the financial condition of an entity when you can’t balance the books every month?” he said.
“We’re going to supply staff… so that they stay up to date and the books are accurate.
“Reconciliation is so critical we’re going to make sure this gets done in the short term,” Yost said.
The free service, however, apparently does not include training of recently appointed interim Treasurer Stephen Telego and two new employees. Supervisors indicated during the commission meeting that the city is responsible for paying for reconciliation training.
“This isn’t rocket science,” Yost said. “Tens of thousands of people in the state know how to do this.”
Telego, whose position is part time, said he plans to take the training along with his two-member staff.
“My job is to learn every job in this office, and I’m expecting to have every employee in this office cross-trained,” he said.
Niles Auditor Giovanne Merlo said state law gradually increases the percentage the city is required to pay the fiscal supervisors the longer fiscal emergency lasts. Merlo said the figure rose to the maximum 100 percent at the end of 2017. He said the city pays each supervisor $50 per hour.
Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia has emphasized the city is “in the black” and no funds are in deficit according to the latest financial report to the commission. Not so fast, responded the state auditor.
“The black they’re in is pretty gray-colored,” Yost said while turning to a baseball analogy to describe his view of Niles’ current financial picture.
“Opening day is coming [and] bank reconciliations are just touching first base,” the state auditor said. “Second and third base would mean to trim spending and bring spending in line with revenues.”
The inference being that lifting the fiscal emergency declaration would be the equivalent of a home run.