State auditor: 'God only knows what else might turn up' during audit of Cincinnati's sewer system

State auditor: 'God only knows what else might turn up' during audit of Cincinnati's sewer system
Posted at 3:38 PM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 15:58:28-04

CINCINNATI -- State Auditor Dave Yost said the long-awaited financial audit of the Metropolitan Sewer District will likely be finished in June.

“Our work, and I hope the field work, will be finished soon and we’ll report in June,” Yost said during a lunch meeting hosted by political firm Government Strategies Group on Friday. “This is not a hard deadline because God only knows what else might turn up. But we’re nearing the end of the road.”

State Auditor Dave Yost gives an update on the three big audits his office is doing in Cincinnati during a lunch meeting hosted by Government Strategies Group on May 4, 2018. 

Auditors began looking into MSD’s finances in February 2016. The office already completed a performance audit of MSD in February 2017, recommending cuts to staffing and overtime that could save more than $1.9 million.

Yost also gave updates on two other major audits in Cincinnati that his office is overseeing -- the city’s 911-center funding and overtime pay at the Cincinnati Police Department.

Yost said he's was spurred to investigate how the city spends cell phone fees collected to support the city's 911 center after a complaint was lodged against how the funds are spent.

The city’s 911 center has undergone intense scrutiny in the weeks after a Seven Hills School student died in his van despite making two desperate 911 calls for help. Kyle Plush, 16, was asphyxiated after becoming pinned under the rear bench seat of his Honda Odyssey.

“In Ohio limited use money, 911 cell phone fees, are not allowed to be used for anything else,” Yost said. “The allegation that we’re looking at -- which has not been proven -- is that some 911 money, some segregated, single-use money, has been diverted to other costs in the city.”

Yost said the 911 center audit, “should be relatively straightforward,” and “have a short response, surely much shorter than MSD.”

Cincinnati has kept Yost busy. He also has a third investigation open.

On April 26, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters asked Yost’s office to investigate allegations raised in a police captain’s lawsuit claiming abuse of the overtime system. This came after Capt. Jeff Butler filed an amendment to his lawsuit against the city, alleging that some officers "flagrantly and illegally abused the overtime system."

“I don’t know where that’s going to lead us,” Yost said, of the police overtime audit.

“The first piece of work is very straightforward and easily defined. I hope it only takes a matter of weeks to give him (Deters) a report,” Yost said.

But more could come out of the state's look into the police department, Yost warned.

“Whether that leads us to other work, or whether he requires additional work, is a matter that remains to be seen," he said.

Yost also took a swipe at the city’s charter, which gives strong power to both the mayor and city manager.

He hinted that the reason his office is conducting so many audits in Cincinnati is because the charter has made the city “very nearly ungovernable.”

“Wow, we’re doing a lot of work here, and I think some of it is because the management structure … it’s just an unusual form of government,” Yost said.

Yost is running for the Republican nomination for Ohio attorney general.