Trustees unknowingly paid former trustee’s wife phone bill

Staff Report

COLUMBUS – A former Guyan Township trustee reportedly misled the township into paying his wife’s cell phone bills, according to an audit released Thursday by Auditor of State Dave Yost.

The township spent $4,689 on 21 cell phone payments for former Trustee Roger Watson during 2014 and 2015. Watson photographed roads and projects with the cell phone to help the township secure financial assistance from outside agencies.

For each cell phone payment, Watson provided the township with the first two pages of the bill from Verizon, which include the total plan charges but no further details, according to Yost’s office. Auditors obtained the complete phone bills and discovered three-fourths of the amount paid by the township was for two additional phone lines, one of which was used by Watson’s wife, Cindy Hager. All three lines on the account were in Hager’s name.

“Under no circumstances should taxpayers foot the cell phone bill for an elected official’s family members,” Auditor Yost said. “I’m glad to see the township has taken preventive measures to guard against future losses.”

A $311 finding for recovery was issued against Watson for excess reimbursements he received from the township for making the first two cell phone payments. A $3,193 finding for recovery was issued against Hager for the remaining 19 excess payments the township made directly to Verizon.

Watson repaid his $311 finding in addition to $2,205 he was secondarily liable for on Dec. 15, 2016. Hager is primarily liable for the remaining $988, with the following officials secondarily liable: Fiscal Officer Debra O’Dell $988, former Trustee Paul Rossiter $988, former Trustee Terry O’Dell $660, and former Trustee Cody Boothe for $328.

A response to the audit findings indicated the township no longer uses cell phones for official purposes.

The Gallipolis Daily Tribune contacted current Trustee John Cardwell who said the trustees had no comment about the previous administration’s actions. Other fellow trustees are Scott Ferguson and Tim Caldwell.

Staff Report