Ind. AG sues former Richland Township employees

Bryan Cohen Apr. 3, 2012, 2:00pm


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office announced a lawsuit on Monday seeking more than $47,000 against the former trustee and two former employees of Richland Township.

William Evans, the former Richland Township trustee, Bonnie Lake Justice, a former office manager, and Le Ann Freeman, a former investigator, were allegedly overpaid or wrongly paid for hundreds of hours of leave time without supporting documentation to explain the payments.

The lawsuit was filed last week in Monroe County Circuit Court to collect on amounts the State Board of Accounts found are owed to the public treasury based on a September 23 certified audit report. When the SBOA audits a local government office and certifies an audit, Zoeller is authorized to collect from the defendants on the state's behalf and is doing so in the case by filing a civil lawsuit.

"Working for taxpayers is a privilege, and so it violates the public trust when government employees spend tax dollars without providing adequate documentation to justify their actions," Zoeller said. "We have brought this necessary lawsuit to make these defendants reimburse the township treasury what they owe according to the audit."

According to the audit, Justice and Freeman allegedly requested and received payment for hundreds of hours of personal time and unused sick time accumulated before February 2009 in July 2010. Justice was allegedly paid $26,040.40 in township funds for grandfathered leave time while Freeman was paid $9,448.72. The amounts for accumulated time allegedly could not be sufficiently verified as the submitted records were not adequate. The SBOA audit seeks repayment from the employees to the township.

Despite a township board change in policy that did not allow personal and sick days to be cashed in, Freeman and Justice allegedly submitted payroll vouchers in November 2010 for additional hours accumulated after February 2009. While the vouchers allegedly violated the new policy and were not approved by the township board, Evans signed checks to the two employees. The SBOA determined that $4,564.27 of the payment to Freeman and $5,773.63 of the payment to Justice were improper and that the amounts should be repaid. In addition, Justice allegedly received a payroll overpayment in November 2009 of $1,496 without explanation and must to repay the township.

Evans, who signed checks as a trustee, is legally responsible for township funds. The lawsuit names Evans as a defendant and seeks the same amounts from him and the other defendants separately and individually, with a total of $47.313.02 for Evans.

Zoeller's office brings civil lawsuits based on certified audit reports by the SBOA. The lawsuit seeks civil judgments against the three defendants, in addition to attorneys' fees and triple damages. Merchants Bonding Company of Des Moines, Iowa, has also been named as a defendant because it had a $50,000 bond on Evans as an insurance policy against diversion, misapplication or misappropriation of public funds. The lawsuit seeks to redeem the bond to cover the amounts and reimburse the treasury of the township. The portion not covered by the bond would be the personal responsibility of the defendants.

Court dates have yet to be set in the lawsuit. Zoeller's office can pursue collections against the defendants if the court enters civil judgments by using the same legal tools a creditor can use to collect on a debt, including seizing bank accounts, attaching liens on property or seizing retirement accounts, to satisfy the judgment. The state also sent letters last September to five other individuals listed in the audit and determined they did not owe the township any additional amounts.

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