Login NowClose 
Sign In to chronicle-tribune.com           
Forgot Password
or if you have not registered since 8/22/18
Click Here to Create an Account

Trustee owes taxpayers $56k

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

A township trustee has been accused of using taxpayers’ money for assistance benefits for herself and relatives.

According to a special investigation report from the Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA), Fairmount Township Trustee Sheila Metzger has been asked to reimburse more than $56,000 for transactions made from 2016 to 2018.

According to SBOA, a total of $26,160.91 in township assistance benefits were paid on behalf of a relative of Metzger, to a relative or directly to Metzger since her appointment to office in August 2016. These benefits included paying for utilities, car expenses, food and rent for Metzger's relatives. They were paid without the recipients applying for township assistance, according to the report. 

There was also no documentation of how 13 payments to relatives totaling $5,167.62 were spent. 

SBOA’s records state the township issued a $500 check to a utility company for a property listed as Metzger’s residence.

Records also show Metzger paid herself $3,750 more than the budgeted amount for the trustee’s salary for 2017 and 2018.

The Fairmount Township Advisory Board issued an official response which stated that members first became aware of the situation on Jan. 3, 2019 after Fairmount State Bank notified them of several “questionable transactions.”

Board members said they held a meeting with Metzger to ask about the transactions and said her answers were “unsatisfactory.”

The board then notified SBOA, Indiana State Police and the Grant County Prosecutor.

“We are deeply concerned and want to get to the bottom of all improprieties that may have occurred. As a board we are, and intend to continue to give full cooperation to all investigative authorities,” they said in the written response.

SBOA found there were no controls to prevent misuse of funds, stating the trustee was “the sole person responsible for all financial processes,” according to the report. 

According to SBOA reports, Metzger had overspent the township assistance budget by as much as $31,357 in 2017.

Board member Morris Kelsay said the board primarily oversees future budgets. 

"We are an advisory board, we’re not auditors,” said Kelsay. Kelsay is married to Chronicle-Tribune publisher Linda Kelsay. 

Kelsay said the board was aware of one incident in the past. Board members at the time told Metzger to correct the issue and believed she had.

Kelsay said the board has looked into joining the Indiana Township Association and adopting some of its procedures in order to prevent situations like this in the future.

“I’m proud of the advisory board for acting so quickly,” he said.

While Kelsay said Metzger has turned over her keys, Grant County Clerk Pam Harris said no resignation paperwork had been filed as of Friday afternoon, meaning Metzger is still the township trustee.

Although SBOA officials have reached out to Metzger several times, she has not responded. She also did not respond to the Chronicle-Tribune's requests for comment.

Grant County Prosecutor Rodney Faulk said in an email that the Indiana State Police are still investigating the case and no charges have been filed.

SBOA has said Metzger must reimburse the state nearly $18,000 for the cost of conducting the special investigation.