State Audit: Former City Employee Owes Lawrenceburg $274K
By Mike Perleberg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – A state audit has determined that a former deputy clerk-treasurer for the City of Lawrenceburg paid herself an extra $32,745 over the course of a year.
According to the December 29 report from the Indiana State Board of Accounts, Theresa Bruening allegedly committed the theft while working in the Lawrenceburg Clerk-Treasurer’s office between March 2012 and March 2013. Fired in April 2013, Bruening had been responsible for creating and issuing payroll checks to city employees.
There were 35 unauthorized checks written in that 13 month period.
“The computerized payroll records showed the unauthorized checks were made payable to other City employees. The unauthorized checks were subsequently voided, leaving an appearance that no check was written. Depository records showed that each unauthorized check processed through the depository account had the same check number as the voided check. Each unauthorized check was made payable to Theresa Bruening, former Deputy Clerk-Treasurer,” the SBOA audit report states.
In addition to the unauthorized checks, Bruening also allegedly paid herself duplicate payroll payments totaling $6,308.92.
Another of Bruening’s former responsibilities was to process payroll withholdings that were supposed to be remitted to the city employees’ union pension fund. The payroll contributions were supposed to be sent to the IAM National Pension Fund by the 20th day of the following month, however, Bruening didn’t make the remittances until 21 up to 134 days after the due dates. Between April 2012 and February 2013, the contributions averaged nearly $60,000 per month.
The audit report says the lack of timeliness resulted in $138,737 in liquidated damages to the pension fund. The city also took on $72,742.49 in penalties and interest as a result.
“Officials and employees have the duty to pay claims and remit taxes in a timely fashion. Failure to pay claims or remit taxes in a timely manner could be an indicator of serious financial problems which should be investigated by the governmental unit. Additionally, officials and employees have a responsibility to perform duties in a manner which would not result in any unreasonable fees being assessed against the governmental unit,” the SBOA stated.
The cost of the state investigation was $22,651.25. The audit also found Bruening owed the city $100 for a shoe allowance.
Add it all up, and the SBOA believes Bruening owes the city $274,782.60.
The SBOA has forwarded its findings to the Office of the Indiana Attorney General and the Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office. No local charges have been filed as of Wednesday.
The state audit is not the first indication of wrongdoing by Bruening when she was employed by the city. She pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in 2014 for issuing herself second payroll checks. She was sentenced to five years on probation and ordered to repay the city $40,551.78. That amount includes the unauthorized payroll checks and duplicate payments cited in the SBOA report.
Bruening worked under former Lawrenceburg Clerk-Treasurer Jackie Stutz, who left office at the end of 2015. The report states that the SBOA discussed its report with Stutz, former Mayor Dennis Carr, and members of city council in November 2015.
Current Lawrenceburg Mayor Kelly Mollaun had no comment on the SBOA findings.