Banner Reporting, Citizen Action Led to Discovery in Kennard Situation
Published October 7, 2015
By Jeff Eakins, for The Banner
A combination of The Banner's news reporting and the astute observations of a former member of the Kennard Town Council led to the discovery that the town's clerk-treasurer may have stolen as much as $40,000 in public funds.
As readers may have noticed, over the past couple of months The Banner has been regularly publishing pay information for public employees and officials. This information comes from Form 100R's - yearly reports public agencies are required to file with the state each January that list the compensation of their public employees and officials.
Three weeks ago, The Banner published pay information for a half dozen towns, including the town of Kennard. According to Kennard's most recent 100R, submitted to the state earlier this year, the town's clerk-treasurer, Karen Stanley, was paid $30,125 in 2014.
That amount caught the attention of John Ryan, who served on the Kennard Town Council from 2008 to July 2014. He contacted The Banner and told the newspaper that he thought there might be some mistake; Stanley, he said, was only supposed to be making $16,500 a year, according to the town's salary ordinance.
The Banner checked the town's salary ordinance and found that Ryan was right about what Stanley's salary was supposed to be. However, the amount listed on the 100R, it turned out, was not a mistake, but reflected $13,625 in overpayments Stanley had made to herself in 2014.
After Ryan brought this issue to The Banner's attention, the newspaper checked the town of Kennard's 100R from the previous year. That report showed that Stanley had been paid $34,375 in 2013, almost $18,000 more than she was supposed to be making.
The Banner contacted Stanley, who is in charge of filling out and filing the town's 100R's each year, to see if she simply had made errors when entering her pay amounts for these two years. She confirmed that the amounts on the reports, which reflect overpayments totaling $31,500 for 2013 and 2014, were correct.
"You basically correlated two pieces of public information that just normally don't get correlated," said Andy Shank, director of special investigations for the Indiana State Board of Accounts. "… It's really a testament to the citizens who keep an eye on this sort of thing because no one person can be in charge of finding every discrepancy like this."
The 100Rs and other similar reporting documents that public agencies are required to create and file, Shank said, "are important components to transparent and honest government." He said his agency commends Ryan for speaking up after noticing the discrepancy in Stanley's pay on the 100R.
"An alert populace is the best weapon the community has against fraud and deception," Shank said. "… The SBOA takes every allegation of misuse of public funds very seriously. We often rely on the diligence of the taxpayers to report instances they feel are improper. The allegations that can be substantiated will be investigated thoroughly and those who abuse the public trust held accountable."