July 21, 2020
Columbus – Auditor of State Keith Faber’s released the 2017-2018 audit of the Village of Lithopolis (Fairfield County) which contained multiple findings for recovery including a finding totaling nearly $50,000 against the Village Mayor.
“Our audit found that Mayor Sandine repeatedly accepted compensation which he was not legally entitled to receive,” said Auditor Faber. “This money belongs to the residents of Lithopolis and should be repaid.”
During his first stint as Mayor for the Village of Lithopolis from January 1, 2004, through December 31, 2015, Eric Sandine was responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the Village, presiding over Village council meetings and drafting policies and procedures to submit to council for review and approval. Village Ordinance 16-07 became effective January 1, 2008, and states, in part, the Mayor will be “compensated at the rate of $62,500 per year and shall be considered an FLSA Overtime Exempt employee. The Mayor shall be paid and receive all benefits as a Full Time Village employee.”
On January 1, 2014, Sandine implemented revisions to the Village’s 2009 policies and procedures manual; however, the changes were not reviewed and approved by Village Council. Among other things, the 2014 revisions increased the compensatory time to be paid from 75% to 100% of the employee’s rate of pay, removed limitations on vacation leave, sick leave and compensatory time, and instituted a policy allowing compensatory time payout upon separation. Benefits Sandine received based upon the changes made to the 2014 policy and procedures manual amounted to an in-term pay increase and were unallowable.
Sandine was paid in excess of the authorized amount per Ordinance 16-07 in 2014 ($4,808),
2015 ($16,830), and 2016 ($6,742) based on W-2 forms. For this period, the Village was unable to locate any time sheets or payroll reports, and the payroll processing agent for the Village was unable to provide pay stubs for each pay period to explain the excess amounts.
According to 2015 paystubs obtained from the Village, Sandine received payouts of vacation leave and compensatory time during the calendar year. Prior to termination of Sandine’s employment with the Village, he also received two manual checks totaling $21,619, which included payouts of sick leave, vacation leave and compensatory time. These manual checks were not issued through the payroll processing agent, and therefore, did not have taxes withheld from the payments.
Due to the lack of available supporting documentation for the entire period, auditors were unable to calculate the portion of vacation leave and compensatory time Sandine would have been entitled to receive. Based upon the 2015 paystubs, Sandine accrued vacation leave at rates of 6.9 and 7.7 hours per pay period. These rates were in excess of the 4.6 hours per pay period Sandine was entitled to receive based on his actual service time according to Village Ordinance 16-07 and the 2009 policies and procedures manual. Additionally, Sandine should have been forfeiting vacation leave during the period due to his leave balance exceeding the three year maximum accrual allowed per the 2009 policies and procedures manual, but it could not be determined if Sandine was paid compensatory time in accordance with the 2009 policies and procedures manual.
As a result of the overpayments and undocumented payouts, a finding for recovery was issued against Mayor, Eric Sandine, regarding his former term in office in the amount of $49,999, and in favor of the Village of Lithopolis’ General Fund.
Sandine was recently elected as Village Mayor again and is currently in office.
The Village also incorrectly overpaid the following severance payments upon separation of employment and finding for recovery for public monies illegally expended were issued:
- Terra Wynkoop received payroll checks from the Village from June 1, 2016, through January 11, 2017. On January 11, 2017, Wynkoop was paid a severance payment that included a payment of accumulated vacation leave even though she had less than one year of service with the Village. In addition, the sick leave balance was paid out at the full pay rate rather than at 50% of the pay rate. However, there were hours worked by Wynkoop at the beginning of her employment in 2016 that were not paid by the Village, resulting in a net overpayment of $173.
- Theodore Simon served as mayor of the Village of Lithopolis in 2016. On December 28, 2016, Simon was paid a severance payment that included accumulated sick leave paid out at the full pay rate rather than at 50% of the pay rate resulting in an overpayment of $1,202.
- Scott Gilliland served as mayor of the Village of Lithopolis in 2017. On December 13, 2017, Gilliland was paid a severance payment that included accumulated sick leave paid out at the full pay rate rather than at 50% of the pay rate resulting in an overpayment of $201.
- Gehni Wilson received notification that she was being laid off as of January 3, 2018, and would be paid two weeks of severance pay and a payout of accrued leave. The two weeks of severance pay was not authorized by Village Council or outlined within the Village handbook. In addition, the accumulated sick leave paid out was paid out at the full pay rate rather than at 50% of the pay rate resulting in an overpayment of $1,379.
Since they signed off on the expenditures, Terra Wynkoop will be jointly and severally liable for $1,202 in favor of the Village’s General Fund, and Jamie Argyle will be jointly and severally liable for $1,580 in favor of the Village’s General Fund.
Ohio Rev. Code § 731.20 and 731.21(A) outlines the requirements that must be met for Village Ordinances to take effect. An ordinance takes effect upon the expiration of ten days after the first publication of a summarization of the ordinance has been published in a newspaper that is circulated in the Village. The Village did not follow the requirements outlined in these sections of code. Therefore, the pay rates authorized in the Village Ordinances were not implemented for payment on the correct dates, which resulted in several employees being overpaid. A finding for recovery was issued against each employee, which together totaled $3,007.
Under Ohio law, any public official who either authorizes an illegal expenditure of public funds or supervises the accounts of a public office from which an illegal expenditure is discovered, is strictly liable for the amount of the expenditure. Thus, Jamie Argyle will be jointly and severally liable for $2,718; of which $2,249 is in favor of the Village’s General fund and $121 is in favor of the Village’s Right of Way Fund, and $348 is in favor of the Village’s Sewer Operating Fund.