The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register, news-register.net
BYLINE: MIKE HUGHES
Link to Article
Martins Ferry, OH
A state audit of the city of Martins Ferry's finances recently revealed that more than $2,000 is missing from the police department.
The State of Ohio Auditor's Office on Thursday released its official report on the latest audit of the city of Martins Ferry, and the auditor issued findings against the city in connection with thousands of dollars in missing money from the police department's evidence room.
Financial matters for the most part appeared to be in order, aside from the one glaring issue that came to light. The report states the police department failed to adopt a law enforcement trust fund written control policy as required by section 298.13 of Ohio Revised Code.
It also stipulates that on Feb. 25, 2009, former police chief Barry Carpenter signed out from the department's evidence room $7,961 from closed cases. The money was to be deposited into the law enforcement trust fund.
Between March 6 and April 24 of that year, Carpenter reportedly used the money to purchase digital cameras, supplies, a laptop computer and a printer for the police department, according to the report. Those items are currently in the possession of the police department.
Carpenter then deposited $2,726 into the trust fund.
However, the audit indicates $2,739 of the original $7,961 is still unaccounted for.
Pursuant to ORC section 117.28, a Finding for Recovery of the public money collected but unaccounted for has been issued against Carpenter in the amount of $2,739 and in favor of the law enforcement trust fund. The auditor's office also recommended that an official practice of accounting for money removed from the evidence room be put into practice. That recommendation is being followed, according to Sgt. John McFarland, currently the highest-ranking officer in the department.
"When any money is removed from the evidence room, myself or the evidence tech immediately brings it upstairs to the auditor's office and the mayor and safety/service director have to sign off on the amount," McFarland said.
When asked about any further details regarding the missing funds, Mayor Phil Wallace said he was unable to comment, adding that the accountability plan McFarland detailed was in effect and was working to keep track of all money removed from the evidence room.
"Because of the ongoing investigation, I'm not able to comment specifically on the matter," Wallace said. "But it is part of the overall investigation."
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is looking into overall practices inside the Martins Ferry Police Department. This is being done at the request of the city administration to assist in its own internal investigation.
Wallace has stated on previous occasions that a new police chief will not be named until the investigation has concluded.
Because the evidence room money situation is part of the investigation, both Wallace and McFarland declined to comment on specifics related to the auditor's office findings.
Aside from the new reporting tactics, McFarland was happy to report improvements to the evidence room itself are under way. The room has been painted and metal shelves have been constructed. Officers also assisted in building a rifle and hand-gun racks. Two cameras are still to be installed in the room, as well as one facing the entry door in the hallway.
The auditor also determined that supervisors were not signing off on city employee time cards before they were turned in to be processed and recommended that the cards be signed in order to prevent any errors or improper time worked reports.
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