Sheriff’s office ate out on tax dollars

Spent over $1,500

RAVENNA — Portage County Sheriff’s Office employees spent more than $1,500 in county funds at restaurants instead of eating pre-paid food provided at training seminars during 2017, according to state auditor Dave Yost.

Department policy requires employees to cover their own meal expenses if they decline provided meals, a state audit states. All of the expenses were charged to a county credit card issued to the sheriff’s office for training and travel expenses.

Employees spent $1,516. Two employees, Robert Symsek and Bill Burns, spent $1,366 during a two-week training course in Madison County, an audit states. Seven other employees, including Ryan Schindler, Robert James, Kelly Burns, Ralph Hayes, Karl Balasz, Matthew Dailey and Robert Clouden, were responsible for the remaining $150 in purchases.

Symsek and Burns dined at 11 different restaurants that included the Cheesecake Factory, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse, a press release from Yost’s office states.

One Portage County Sheriff’s Office employee, Joleen Clelland, attended a conference where meals were not provided, but charged the cost of meals in excess of the federal per diem rate applicable to the city visited totaling $4, the audit states.

A finding for recovery of the money was issued against all 10 employees. Sheriff David Doak, who was jointly liable for the spending because he authorized use of the credit cards resulting in improper charges, repaid the full amount to the county this past month, the press release states.

“Nobody says you have to eat the meals provided by conference organizers,” Yost said in the release. “But public employees who choose to dine elsewhere cannot send the extra bill to taxpayers.”