INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced on Tuesday that he has filed a lawsuit against the former director of the East Chicago Public Library for more than $12,000 in expenses.
Manuel Montalvo served as director of the East Chicago library during a six-year period that started in 2005 and ended with his termination on Wednesday.
The suit alleges that Montalvo filed a large amount of questionable reimbursements while in his position.
"Like all government officials, public library employees are accountable to the taxpayers. If an employee submits ineligible travel bills that are wrongly paid out, then that individual is responsible for repaying the public treasury," Zoeller said. "My office has intervened in this situation to ensure funds will be available to reimburse the taxpayers."
A 2009 state law allows the State Board of Accounts to offer up leads on any possible local government misappropriation to the attorney general's office to prevent further funds from being misused.
A preliminary audit by the State Board of Accounts alleged that Montalvo received $12,378.87 from the library for travel and other expenses that appear to have nothing to do with library business.
Among his alleged trips were visits to a Puerto Rican Day Gala in New York, an unemployment insurance rally in Indianapolis and a Jefferson-Jackson Day Democratic Party fundraiser. For the gala, Zoeller alleges, Montalvo was advanced expenses for 11 days for an economic development conference he was supposed to attend, but no records of such a conference were discovered in the audit. Hotel receipts also showed that he only stayed for seven days, Zoeller says.
Questions about Montalvo's vehicle allowance also arose during the audit. Although Montalvo received a $600 monthly vehicle allowance, he submitted additional bills for $1,677.05 for repairs to his personal vehicle and $1,022.65 for fuel purchases, Zoeller says.
Zoeller says the East Chicago Public Library Board did approve the costs, but Zoeller alleges that under state law, Montalvo is personally responsible for repaying them because the costs were ineligible for reimbursement.
Zoeller requested that the Lake County Circuit Court impose a temporary restraining order that would keep Montalvo from selling, transferring or concealing any personal assets until a hearing could be held. That request was granted.
On March 30, Zoeller's office will seek a court order for a prejudgment attachment and garnishment to extend the freeze on Montalvo's assets indefinitely and to keep him from disposing of them while a full State Board of Accounts audit is completed.
Examiners from the State Board of Accounts are completing conducting a larger audit into expenditures and practices at the East Chicago Public Library.