Commissioners give termination order for Starke Treasurer employees

KNOX — Starke County Commissioners gave the order to terminate all employees in the Starke County Treasurer's office in a public meeting, which was held this morning (Thursday, Aug. 11) and which took place after an emergency executive session of the commissioners.
The termination order was due to an unresolved issue in the 2009 audit by the State Board of Accounts of the Starke County Treasurer's office.
Starke County Commissioner President Dan Bridegroom read a release for members of the media and anyone else in attendance.
Bridegroom informed the room the meeting was a direct result of the 2009 audit findings. Bridegroom also said, "County officials have instituted additional safeguards on all county bank accounts. The safeguards will enhance review procedures that may result in modest delays in the availability of funds for payment of county checks. Delays should not exceed 48 hours."
Commissioner Kathy Norem made the motion to terminate all employees of the treasurer's office — Bridegroom and Commissioner Jennifer Davis promptly gave the second and third motions.
Following the unanimous decision to remove employees from the treasurer's office, Starke County Sheriff Oscar Cowen, Bridegroom and a couple of police officers entered the treasurer's office and relieved Robin Lenig of her duties. Lenig was allowed to collect her things. Upon exiting the building, Lenig said, "Why am I being fired, I didn't do anything."
Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork can be terminated from her position as an elected official by executive order of the commissioners when certain steps have been taken: The treasurer must be delinquent and sued on their official bond. The commissioners asked for a restraining order to secure the office. And a motion was made and approved to file a suit against the treasurer's bond.
A Starke County Police officer was also installed in the office. However, Belork was not in the office when he arrived. Shortly after the termination order came down, she was said to have left the building.
The 2009 audit report, which can be located at www.in.gov/sboa/, states the treasurer had made 133 individual errors, totaling $1,102,670 at the end of November 2009. However, the report also says those errors were corrected in January before the records for 2009 were closed.
The total for all ledger accounts cash funds balance is listed as being understated $636,618 and the undistributed tax collections were overstated by about the same amount. the report said this was due to license excise tax and other undistributed funds not being properly posted at settlement. Another issue mentioned in the report was the monthly financial records. Apparently, for the year 2009, the reports were not completed in a timely manner.
The only reasons given for today's decision was that issues from the 2009 audit have been unresolved.
The 2010 audit has not yet been posted by the state.
Starke County Commissioners will be meeting in a joint session with Starke County Council at 2 p.m. today at the Starke County Annex in the Starke County Commissioner's meeting room. The meeting is open to the public.

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