HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio – In the midst of an investigation into $2 million in missing funds, a small Warren County township now finds its pocket book under state control.
On Wednesday, Ohio’s Auditor of State Dave Yost placed Hamilton Township in a state of fiscal emergency.
“Hamilton Township needs to take a hard look at its financial situation and take the steps to bring the books back into the black,” Yost said. “It won’t be easy, but the time to turn things around is now.”
Yost’s office found the township of more than 11,500 residents had $2,588,354 and $2,576,119 fund deficits as of December 31, 2012 and December 2013 respectively.
"The books were a mess," Yost said of his office's audit of township books.
The declaration of fiscal emergency essentially means the township will now come under the oversight of a Financial Planning and Supervision Committee. Township trustees will have 120 days to develop a financial plan that must be approved by the committee.
The declaration also means some township projects, such as the resurfacing of township roads, will be put on hold. Essential services will not be affected by the township's financial crisis though, Kurt Weber, president of the board of trustees said.
"We are positive about where we're going as far as the safety services go," Weber said. "Our fire and police, those services will continue at the level of service they are currently. Fundamentally, the township is sound. The tax base here is sufficient to support the government operations. I would not expect, based on what I can see here now, that there's going to be Draconian kinds of service reductions."
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation and state auditors have been carefully examining Hamilton Township's financial records, trying to track down a missing $2 million from its budget. Initial audit findings from 2002 to 2009 were released in March.
In that same month, longtime township financial officer, Jackie Terwilleger resigned. Terwilleger served as fiscal officer for the township since 1980.
Terwilleger was at the center of claims concerning mismanaged money, falsified checks and unauthorized payments.
The township named Ray Warrick as her replacement.
Resident Roger Bingham praised Terwilleger at the time of her resignation.
"She's always been honest and upfront," he said. "She's been there a long time, she's been voted in many times, so it should tell us something."
State investigators continue their examination of Hamilton Township's financials. No criminal charges have been filed related to the state’s investigation.
"Our office has been working diligently to untangle the township finances. The fiscal officer’s resignation does not impact our work, which will continue,” Yost said earlier.
On Wednesday he added, "Clearly, the fiscal officer was in over her head."
WCPO reporter Jay Warren contributed to this report.