BEAVERCREEK TOWNSHIP — Beavercreek Township Fiscal Officer Christy Ahrens told trustees this week that her office is being internally shut down so it can get caught up.
“We’ve had illness and turnover in that office,” Ahrens said when contacted by phone. “It’s just to try to get caught up with our finances so that we’re moving forward. Just like any other office when you have illness and turnover it makes it more difficult to perform your duties in a timely fashion.”
Residents will still be helped if they come in the office or have issues with the cemetery, but otherwise she and her employees will be 100 percent focused on catching up.
During the meeting, Trustee Tom Kretz asked if Ahrens knew how many invoices were past due and how long they have been unpaid, but Ahrens said she had no information on that. She told the Gazette that she wasn’t even sure there were past-due invoices.
“I wasn’t the one that said there were,” said Ahrens, who also works in the Greene County Juvenile Court and is a candidate for Greene County Clerk of Courts.
Kretz told the Gazette that there are several that are 90 days old.
“One of the vendors we know is the Greene County Sheriff, that we have not paid since December,” Kretz said. “Obviously the board was quite surprised and quite upset that we’ve got this recurring problem.”
This is the second time in recent years that the fiscal office has allegedly not paid invoices.
In early 2019, Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber issued a finding of recovery against Ahrens for unnecessarily paying late fees and penalties. The report — released Feb. 7 — alleged 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.”
Ahrens disputed the fact that her office is not paying bills and that it’s a recurring problem, citing only the one previous issue in her 14 years as fiscal officer, a position she has been re-elected to several times.
“It’s an incorrect statement to say that we’re not (paying invoices),” Ahrens said. “We are paying bills. We are not paying late fees.”
Ahrens said she mentioned the predicament the office is in to keep trustees informed.
“It was in an effort to be transparent,” she said. “I’m not hiding anything. We are working to fix it. This was my quickest, best solution to fix it.”
Kretz said the situation makes the township look bad.
“It’s a mismanagement issue,” he said. “The fact is, the township has the money. Our hands are tied. We have no ability to compel her to do her job properly or at all. I authorized her and begged her to hire temporary additional staff since last November. At the end of the day, she has refused to do that.”
Ahrens said a temporary employee has come back to work and another fiscal officer is putting in some hours as well, but with one computer, there is only so much that can be accomplished at one time.
“It’s not like I can hire 20 people and that will make the job get done in a day,” Ahrens said.
Kretz said a new accounting system will be rolled out in April that will help make the office more efficient and more accountable.
“These types of issues will be much more transparent,” Kretz said, adding that it will be “virtually impossible” to hide any financial issues from the board.
Ahrens was appointed fiscal officer in 2006 and was re-elected in 2007, 2011, and 2015. Her current term runs through March 31, 2020.
The Gazette made a public records request for all invoices 60-90 days past due and also reached out to the sheriff’s office.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.