Local incident is a catalyst for statewide accountability legislation

State Representative Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Twp.) today was joined by Auditor of State Dave Yost and State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) at a press conference to discuss the Fiscal Integrity Act, which would increase accountability and penalize wrong-doing from local fiscal officers.

“I am honored to join with Auditor Yost and Senator Schaffer in sponsoring this legislation, because ensuring that fiscal officers in our communities do not abuse or mishandle public dollars is one of the most important tasks we can undertake at this time,” said Representative Hagan. “Every dollar counts when we are looking at ways to keep our public officials honest and our spending under control.”

The need for the Fiscal Integrity Act arose in Stark County, when the chief deputy of former Stark County treasurer Gary Zeigler was alleged to have stolen as much as $2.96 million from the county treasury. Zeigler was removed from office as a result of the allegations but fought the removal. The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Zeigler’s favor, stating that he could not be removed from office with no requirement of a complaint or hearing.

To this end, the Fiscal Integrity Act, among other measures, will create a uniform removal provision and due process for county auditors and treasurers, municipal fiscal officers, and township fiscal officers. It also states that any offenders convicted of dereliction of duty would be prohibited from holding public office for four years and may not hold another office until repayment or restitution required by the court is repaid. A conviction of dereliction would carry a fifth-degree felony charge.

“This issue really hits home for me because it happened right in Stark County,” Representative Hagan said. “Although the vast majority of Ohio’s fiscal officers do great work and respect the public purse, there are cases where an individual takes their position for granted and betrays those they have been entrusted to serve. This legislation will help address those cases and increase accountability for the taxpayers.”

“One bad apple spoils the bunch and the worms must be rooted out,” said Auditor Yost. “Being entrusted with taxpayer dollars requires accountability and education – this bill provides both.”

The legislation would also state that if an Ohio county, township or municipal government is declared “unauditable” and fails to make a reasonable effort to bring its financial records to an auditable condition within 90 days, the Auditor of State may notify the Office of Budget and Management and state funding may be withheld.

Similarly, if a public school district is declared “unauditable,” the treasurer responsible will be suspended until the audit is completed. Within 45 days of the “unauditable” declaration, the school must present a plan to the Auditor of State, and if the district has not made a reasonable effort to bring its financial records to an auditable condition, the Auditor may notify the Ohio Department of Education and state payments may be withheld.

Like the rules established for public schools under the legislation, community schools would be subjected to similar standards. A community school treasurer will be suspended if the school is declared “unauditable,” and the state board of education may suspend, revoke or limit the treasurer’s license. Upon an “unauditable” declaration, the sponsor of the community school may not open a new school between 90 days after the declaration and the date the financial audit is completed for that school.

“I believe wholeheartedly that accountability creates an environment where people are less likely to fall short,” said Representative Hagan. “I am glad to work towards ensuring that such an environment can exist, where temptation is minimized due to sound controls, further education and the understanding that repercussions are strong against one’s ill actions.”

The Fiscal Integrity Act will soon be introduced in the House by Representative Hagan, with companion legislation to be introduced in the Senate.

Watch the press conference here:


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