Smithfield audit woes continue to grow

COLUMBUS — The state auditor’s office reported the amount of misspent Smithfield tax dollars continues to climb, after the latest financial review by the state found a former employee overpaid herself by $18,126.

An audit released by state Auditor Dave Yost contains a finding for recovery issued against former Clerk/Treasurer Deborah Coconougher for writing checks to herself that exceeded her approved salary by $9,138 in 2014 and $8,988 in 2015.

In a previous audit report released last month, auditors issued an $11,755 finding for recovery against Coconougher for prior overpayments. She has yet to repay any of the combined $29,881 owed to the village, according to the state auditor’s office.

“Ms. Coconougher is in for a rude awakening if she thinks she’s off the hook,” Yost said. “The state and its taxpayers do not take lightly to $30,000 in misspending.”

The audit report released this week includes two noncompliance citations resulting from the village’s failure to pay $50,748 in federal income taxes and $8,701 in state income taxes withheld from employees during the review period. The auditor’s office reported the matter will be referred to the IRS and Ohio treasurer’s office.

Coconougher was sentenced on April 26 to two years of probation and ordered to complete 160 hours of community service following her conviction on one count of attempted failure to remit state income taxes, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Village officials failed to maintain financial records for the fourth straight annual-auditing period, forcing the auditor’s local government services section to construct the books based on bank statements. The village has spent the past five years on the auditor’s “unauditable” list and was placed in fiscal emergency on Feb. 19, 2015.