An Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA) audit states former Ripley Township trustee Tara Hancock and former township investigator Jonathan Hancock misappropriated or misused funds.
The SBOA wants the Hancock’s to repay the money, which was taken from Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2018, and fees in total of $37,159.25 in taxpayer money.
The report indicates township officials had trouble obtaining records from former Trustee Tara Hancock in order for the Annual Financial Report to be filed. Once records were received, township officials found inconsistencies or questionable items related to compensation and cell phone and internet reimbursements.
“We did find irregularities with the information from the previous years and felt it warranted contacting the SBOA,” current Ripley Township trustee Andrew Ingersoll said. “We partnered with them and worked closely with them to try to get everything straightened out and they took it from there. We just want to make it clear from the outset that the state is not investigating the township.”
According to the report, Tara Hancock was paid $3,659.90 in excess of the salaries appropriated by the township board for the years 2016 and 2018. Jonathan Hancock received $1,300 in excess of the salaries appropriated by the township board for the year 2018.
In addition, salary amounts paid to both of the Hancock’s for the years 2016 and 2018 were not properly reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA).
In 2015, 2017 and 2018, Tara Hancock wrote and cashed township checks and township counter checks made payable to cash totaling $1,818.65. In 2017 and 2018, Tara Hancock also withdrew cash from the township checking account totaling $513.53.
No evidence was provided to support the validity of these payments.
Tara Hancock also received $1,170 in excess of the office rent appropriated by the township board in 2018 for the use of her home as the township office.
Township funds were paid to Tara Hancock and Jonathan Hancock for reimbursements of cellular telephone and internet expenses. The cell phone and internet bills were in the name of Tara Hancock.
No supporting documentation was provided to distinguish township use from personal use.
The State of Indiana incurred additional costs in the investigation.
The SBOA requests Tara Hancock reimburse the state for special investigation costs in the amount of $15,669.91. The SBOA also requests Tara Hancock and Johnathan Hancock, jointly and severally, reimburse the state for special investigation costs in the amount of $4,329.96.
The township paid a total of $3,029.50 in penalties and interest to the United States Treasury for failing to pay employer’s quarterly taxes due for tax periods in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 in a timely manner. Other charges including late fees, service charges and turn on fees were paid to a utility company in the amount of $365.42 because the trustee did not remit payments on a timely basis.
The report indicates an investigation into the expenditures of the former township trustee has been conducted by the Indiana State Police.
Ingersoll said people can contact the township with any questions and the next township board meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 24.