December 22, 2014

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Buzzkill: Firefighter’s beer stains Avon’s long-time clean audit record

AVON — One beer tarnished the perfect audit record of Mayor Jim Smith.

The $4.25 beer, purchased by an Avon fireman, was included in a list of city expenses. The discrepancy was caught by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s office.

“It aggravates me because we’ve had nothing but good reports,” Smith said.

The beer was included in the fireman’s travel reimbursement for a class he took in April 2012. A meal, which was reimbursed by the city, included the alcohol purchase, which is not “a proper public purpose,” according to an independent auditor’s report on the city for the audit period of Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2012.

The fireman who purchased the beer said he was unaware that alcohol couldn’t be purchased with city money, according to Avon Fire Chief Frank Root. The fireman has since paid the city $4.25, and he received a verbal warning.

“He should have known. It’s a rule that you can’t purchase beer with city money,” Root said.

Root said now that the purchase has been brought to light, the Fire Department will keep a more prudent eye on its purchases.

The city has not had a discrepancy since at least 1999, according to state auditor’s records, and Smith said the city has received good audits since he took the helm 20 years ago.

Brittany Halpin, spokeswoman for the Ohio Auditor of State, said city audits are usually completed on a yearly basis. Any time a “finding for recovery” is noted, the auditor notifies the entity, and the problem can be corrected before the audit is released.

The city of Avon’s audit was officially released Aug. 29, but the fireman had paid the city back even before that.

Smith said he is unaware of any other alcohol purchases that may have been reimbursed by the city, but he said independent audits are important to catch any illegal purchases that may slip through the cracks, no matter how small.

“The reason why they do this is because people have a tendency to do stupid stuff. It’s good to catch that,” he said. “We are going to make sure that everybody knows the rules.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.