By Carson Gerber Kokomo Tribune
---- — BUNKER HILL — An ongoing internal investigation by Bunker Hill officials has revealed former Clerk-Treasurer Sarah Betzner racked up nearly $19,000 in late fees, penalties and interest on unpaid bills during her three years in office.
Town Council President Robert Cox started the investigation last month after Betzner resigned from the position when she failed to get state approval of the town’s budget three years straight.
Council members became suspicious about the city’s financial state after Betzner failed to properly advertise the budget in the newspaper last year, which led the state to once again deny it, he said.
Cox said the investigation so far has revealed invoices that were sometimes four months past due, unpaid taxes to the Indiana Department of Revenue and missing documentation.
Betzner also continued to pay former town employees’ health insurance out of the town budget, sometimes for two years after they had quit, he said.
Cox said he doesn’t believe Betzner behaved with any criminal intent, but was simply unprepared for the position when she was appointed in 2010 and then elected in 2012.
“I think it all boils down to a lack of knowledge on her part,” he said. “In my opinion, I don’t feel that anything has been done criminally. It’s just been negligence.”
Cox said he is currently in contact with the Indiana State Board of Accounts and the Attorney General’s office about how to proceed.
“They’re on board and ensuring we take the right steps as we move forward,” he said.
The SBA plans to conduct its own audit of the town’s finances, Cox said, and could force Betzner to pay back the money incurred from late payments and interest.
“It’s my early assumption that we will really try to recoup any fees we paid out while she was in office,” he said.
The Attorney General may also decide to pursue criminal charges.
Betzner also overpaid $39,000 to the department of revenue, Cox said. Current Clerk-Treasurer Lisa Wilson, who was appointed to the position after Betzner resigned, is trying to recoup some of that money.
Cox said town officials will continue the internal investigation, which will likely turn up more late fees and penalties incurred during Betzner’s term. He said he will likely have a full report before the town’s council meeting next month.
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carsongerber1.