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May 10, 2013

Zurschmiede seeks audit of bicentennial commission

Resolution in response to claims made by former treasurer

NEW ALBANY —  City Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede is sponsoring a resolution that calls for the New Albany Bicentennial Commission’s financial records to be audited.

On Monday, former commission treasurer Vic Megenity discussed with the council what he alleged are nine nonprofit violations stemming from transactions made by the commission’s vice chair, Barbara Zoller, and her sister, Patty Hughes.

Megenity said he first learned of the violations in October when he learned Hughes had written a personal check to cover a bicentennial related expense.

Additionally, Megenity said all the proceeds from a September event titled Stories Behind the Stones — which was organized by Zoller — were not turned over to the commission.

Megenity said he brought the matter to the attention of councilman and commission co-chair Bob Caesar, as well as Mayor Jeff Gahan and other city officials.

But after months of being told the issue would be resolved, he was later informed by Caesar during an executive commission meeting that he would be fired, Megenity said.

Though the private firm Rodefer Moss has been hired to review financial records related to the commission, Megenity called for a full audit of the body.

He added the need for an audit is even more important now that about $66,000 of public money has been provided to the commission by the city council.

Megenity emphasized that he told Gahan, Caesar and Shelle England, who is the other co-chair of the body, that the lack of accounting for where the Stories Behind the Stones’ proceeds went as well as the possible mingling of bicentennial money with personal funds could “jeopardize the whole commission.”

Zurschmiede’s resolution will be before the council on Thursday, and it calls for the local accounting firm Monroe-Shine to audit the commission’s near three-year financial record.

“I just thought after hearing [Megenity] the other night, it was the proper thing to do to clear up the record one or the other since the city has invested the taxpayers’ money,” Zurschmiede said Friday.

He stressed that the commission is stocked with quality individuals and that he doesn’t believe there’s been any wrongdoing, but he added he believes it would be prudent to provide transparency on the issue for the public.

“It just made me have an uneasy feeling for the people out in the general public,” Zurschmiede said of his reaction to Megenity’s presentation on Monday.

Charlie Pride, office supervisor of cities, towns and libraries for the State Board of Accounts, said Friday he would need to further research whether the state would audit the commission’s records before providing a definitive answer.

“If they were a city department, then we would audit them in connection with our annual audit, but I don’t think they are,” he said.

The commission could fall under the state’s auditing jurisdiction if certain criteria were met related to the amount of public funding provided, Pride added.

He said a nonprofit entity can have an audit performed by a private firm, though it was unclear whether the body would have to be completely separate from a municipality in terms of funding.

Gahan — who appointed Zoller to the commission when he was the council president — said Friday that he’s appreciative of the work of the bicentennial commission.

A message left for Caesar Friday hadn’t been returned as of press time.


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