The former fiscal officer of the Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District, who had previously been ordered to pay more than $10,000 in restitution for unauthorized personal expenditures, is being ordered to pay around $14,000 more.
The Ohio Auditor of State’s Office announced Tuesday that an audit of fire district expenses found her liable for additional improper personal expenditures, plus around $2,000 in late fees and finance charges, plus nearly $11,000 in charges auditors could not account for.
Rosemary Barrett, 59, of Macedonia, pleaded guilty in January of fourth-degree felony theft in office for credit card misuse that occurred while she was employed by the Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District. Her attorney, Jose Feliciano, said he has already responded to a preliminary finding from the state office.
"You can’t just say that in every instance where they don’t have paperwork that she’s responsible," he said, adding Barrett should be accountable for around $12,000. He said Barrett intends to appeal the findings.
Judge Alison Breaux of the Summit County Common Pleas Court in January had sentenced Barrett to three years of probation and ordered her to pay $10,172 in restitution as a result of an investigation by the sheriff’s department. As of Aug. 6, she had repaid $2,499.
In a press release Tuesday, auditors said they found Barrett had actually charged a total of $12,048 to the district’s credit cards for personal expenses including the cost of gas, meals, garden supplies, a camera, gift cards, a hotel stay and college tuition for a family member. Auditors reported Barrett racked up the charges between January 2012 through September 2016, when the district ceased operations.
Additionally, auditors identified $10,639 in charges that lacked supporting documentation. As a result, they could not determine whether the spending served a proper public purpose, according to the release. The report also states Barrett is responsible for $1,952 in late fees and finance charges paid by the fire district.
Auditors issued findings for recovery totaling $24,639 against Barrett, requiring her to repay the amount to Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills townships.
Feliciano said Barrett may be responsible for some of the late fees and finance charges, but was unsure of the amount.
Auditor’s spokesperson Beth Gianforcaro said the findings would be turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s office for further action.
In the release, Auditor Dave Yost said, "Inadequate safeguards opened the door to years of credit card abuse by this corrupt public servant ... Basic policies and controls are critical for all governments to detect suspicious activity before financial damage occurs."
Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher said there was no way to monitor every expenditure of "$200 here, $200 there."
"We would have had to go over every check, every expenditure. You place trust in a person like that and unfortunately, our trust was betrayed," he said.
Sagamore Hills Trustee David DePasquale said he and fellow trustees had never felt comfortable with the fire district’s statements.
"Nothing ever made sense to me," he said. "I always had questions that never got answered."
He said that at one point, he asked for a list of regular sources of goods and services, as well as credit cards, and was told the district only had one credit card, where auditors determined there were at least three.
"It never added up," he said.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or email@example.com.