State auditors launch 'unscheduled review' of Lincoln Heights finances

State auditors launch 'unscheduled review' of Lincoln Heights finances

LINCOLN HEIGHTS, OH (FOX19) - A team of state auditors pulled up at Lincoln Heights village hall bright and early Thursday to begin pouring over their financial books.

The move comes amid media reports that the village is too broke to pay for patrols from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

"Auditor Dave Yost was contacted by a representative of the Hamilton County commission late yesterday and as a result the auditor sent staff in today to look at the village's payables to see if there is a fiscal distress situation that we need to act on," said Ben Marrison, spokesman for the Ohio Auditor of State.

"The determination of that depends on a lot of things. The fact that (Yost) sent people in today indicates he is taking this seriously. There is a regular audit underway already for 2014-2015, but this is specifically to look at the payables and their current financial situation."

Marrison said he was not sure how long the financial review would take or where it could lead: "It's too soon to say what could happen as a result of this."

The village, however, could be put into fiscal distress classification including up to fiscal emergency, he acknowledged.

Lincoln Heights owes about $650,000 and informed the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office last week that it doesn't have enough money to pay that bill or cover future costs, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Wednesday.

County officials told the paper they won't abandon the village and its 3,200 residents. But they said they would call Yost to look into the village's finances.

Lincoln Heights disbanded its police department in October 2014 and the sheriff's office took over patrols for $700,000 a year.

But officials say the town paid little of that last year and none this year.

Officials say the patrols will continue as the county and village work toward a solution.

"We contract with multiple jurisdictions throughout the county. Just like every other incorporated village, Lincoln Heights has the statutory obligation to provide police services," said Mike Robison, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

"With that said, Sheriff (Jim) Neil has met with and continues to have ongoing discussions with both county and village officials working towards finding a solution to keep the citizens safe while not jeopardizing the safety of our deputies."

Village officials could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday morning. In a radio interview, Mayor Richard Headen said the village paid for patrols last year and doesn't have a contract with the county yet this year, so it's not clear what they should pay.

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