By DENISE GRANT
A dispute between Findlay Municipal Court and City Auditor Jim Staschiak over city credit cards ended Tuesday, with the courts returning the cards, along with a letter calling the issue a distraction from “other important matters.”
According to the letter, dated March 19 and signed by Municipal Judges Alan Hackenberg and Mark Miller, the courts now have their own credit cards and will govern their use under their own policy.
“Please be advised these credit cards (the city’s cards) were properly safeguarded by the clerk of courts as required by the court’s policy and were only utilized by court employees when properly signed out for purposes approved by the court,” the judges said. The letter was presented at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Staschiak has been asking the courts to return the city’s credit cards since Jan. 28, the date when council passed legislation about use of the cards.
A new state law required government entities to adopt legislation establishing which employees may use a credit card, the allowable use of the cards, management of accounts and receipts, procedures for issuance, cancellation, loss or theft, the card limits and a statement on misuse.
The new rules require government agencies to appoint a compliance officer to audit use of credit cards not held by the auditor. Findlay Council decided against assuming that responsibility, opting instead to collect the credit cards after each use.
The new state law took effect Nov. 2 and gave local governments 90 days to establish their own policies.
On Jan. 18, two weeks prior to council adopting the legislation, Findlay Municipal Court Administrator David Beach signed out the eight city credit cards assigned to court employees, including his own, from the auditor’s office. The court instituted its own policy on that date.
In the letter, Hackenberg and Miller said that in the future, attendance at training and related expenses, where a court credit card is used, will be paid for from the court’s special project fund.
“This should further alleviate any concerns regarding credit card review because expenditures from this fund are totally discretionary, with the court. We will continue, as we always have, to submit purchase orders and other documentation to the auditor’s office,” the judges said.
Transaction details and supporting documentation from the city’s credit cards that were turned in by the court were submitted by Staschiak to council for review. According to Staschiak, state law requires the credit cards to either be held in his office, or the legislative authority, in this case City Council, should review the transactions and the presiding officer attest to their proper use.
Council voted 10-0 Tuesday to authorize council President Ron Monday to sign a letter confirming review of the charges.
City Law Director Don Rasmussen called the vote unnecessary, but said it was the easiest way to settle the matter “without an argument.”
The judges’ letter said “a significant amount of time and effort has been spent on this issue. As elected officials, we are always cognizant of the need to protect public funds. But, let us please also be mindful that the court’s average credit card usage is a minuscule part of the court’s overall budget. For example, the credit card usage over the past several years has been less than $9,000 per year.”