State discovers illegal late fees being paid by township

By Scott Halasz -

BEAVERCREEK TOWNSHIP — Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber issued a finding of recovery against Beavercreek Township Fiscal Officer Christy Ahrens for unnecessarily paying late fees and penalties.

The report — released Feb. 7 — alleges that between June 2016 and September 2018, the township incurred $2,312 in late fees and interest due to the township not paying its bills on time. The township recovered $297, leaving $2,015 levied against Ahrens.

“The late fees and penalties assessed against the township serve no proper public purpose for the township and could have been avoided had the funds been remitted in a timely manner,” the report said.

The report called the amount “public money illegally expended.”

“The trustees are thankful that the state auditor issued the finding for recovery so the Beavercreek Township taxpayers will be re-paid for the egregious mistake and failures in judgement by the fiscal officer,” Trustee Tom Kretz said via email. “In the case of the illegal late fee payments … the trustees literally begged the fiscal officer in open session meetings to seek the help of a third party, independent CPA firm to audit the township’s accounts payable and payroll processes. Each time, the fiscal officer dismissed the request and decided to rely upon internal auditing of her own books and practices. This is a simple case of a person being in way over their head, lacking the management and finance background to do the job, and a prime example of what happens when you only have to be 18 and popular to win an election. Our state representatives and state senators need to help fix this problem for all townships statewide. Township trustees have no authority over the fiscal officer, yet are forced to clean up their mistakes at the taxpayer’s expense.”

Ahrens was appointed fiscal officer in 2006 and was re-elected in 2007, 2011, and 2015. Her current term runs through March 31, 2020.

This isn’t the first time the trustees and Ahrens have been at odds.

She asked for a writ of mandamus in May 2016, alleging that trustees Carol Graff, Jeff Roberts, and Kretz abused their discretion when they denied her specific salary requests for two positions in the fiscal office. Ahrens asked the court to compel the board to approve and fund the salaries of a lead assistant at an amount of $75,000 to $92,000 a year and an accounts assistant at a range of $50,000 to $65,000 a year.

In its decision handed down Sept. 20, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that although the Ohio Revised Code authorizes Ahrens to hire two assistants and to set compensation subject to prior approval by the board, “she has not demonstrated that the board abused its discretion when it denied her specific salary requests.”

Ahrens made that request in February 2016, and in March 2016 the trustees denied it, instead approving two resolutions creating salaries of $40,515 for the lead assistant and $28,200 for the accounts assistant — which Graff previously said was the median salary compared to other townships with similar structures.

Andrew Pickering, a special assistant Greene County prosecuting attorney representing Ahrens, wrote in the complaint that failure to approve the fiscal officer’s proposed compensation for her assistants was “an abuse of discretion.”

The court did issue a writ ordering the board to rescind the resolutions and to consider a new compensation proposal submitted by Ahrens.

Ahrens could not be reached for comment as of press time.

By Scott Halasz

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.