Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

April 29, 2013

State critical of lawnmower sale

Tipton officials didn’t follow procedures.

Tipton — Tipton County Commissioners did not follow their own procedures in the 2011 purchase of two lawnmowers by the Tipton County Fair Board.

No documentation of a specific application being presented to the county commissioners was found in an audit conducted by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

The lawnmowers, bought with $11,935 from the county’s Economic Development Income Tax account, were purchased by the 4-H Fair Board and not Tipton County. The county’s 2011 Capital Improvement Plan mentions the purchase of the two lawnmowers as a “one-time” expenditure. The audit stated there was no interlocal agreement or contract between the Tipton County Commissioners and the Tipton County 4-H Fair Board.

By ordinance, Tipton County requires three separate quotes for purchases exceeding $10,000. The quotes have to be presented to the commissioners for review and approval.

The audit states there is no information that quotes were obtained for the purchase.

“Each governmental unit is responsible for complying with the ordinances, resolutions and policies it adopts,” the audit stated.

Former Commissioner Jane Harper provided auditors a written statement that she was not involved in the purchase of the lawnmowers and the action was taken by commissioners Mike Cline and Phil Heron.

“I, as a Tipton County Commissioner, had no knowledge of the purchase of the lawnmowers until I saw the claim [May 9, 2011] in a public meeting,” she said. “I voted against the claim.”

Harper wrote she notified Cline and Heron they acted improperly and ignored specific procedures in the Capital Improvement Plan and the county’s policy for purchasing property.

This was the second official report noting procedures were not followed.

Last week, special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp decided not to file criminal charges following an investigation by the Indiana State Police into the lawnmower purchase.

Leerkamp said she will not file criminal charges because there was not enough evidence to indicate criminal intent or activity.

Tipton resident Jim Leffler filed a complaint alleging misconduct by Cline in the sale of the lawnmowers by the fair board. One of the lawnmowers was purchased by Cline’s son before it was delivered to Reynolds Farm Equipment in Sheridan.

“I felt there were questionable activities going on,” Leerkamp said. “It didn’t appear to be that everything was done properly.”

In her report to Special Judge Wayne Sturtevant, she noted “the actions of the individuals involved and a potential breach of public trust, but not rising to the level of behavior justifying the filing of criminal charges”.

In her report, Leerkamp said there was no advertising of the sale or availability of the two mowers to the public, even though the value was in excess of $10,000.

Leerkamp said the procedure for replacing mowers had been tentatively approved by the commissioners in the Economic Development Income Tax Capital Improvement Plan and the sale was subject to final approval by them.

“That procedure not having been followed, cast further suspicion on the transaction,” she wrote.

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