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Published: Wednesday, 10/1/2003

Spending on agency credit card examined

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A mental health agency that serves clients in Erie and Ottawa counties is awaiting the release of a state audit triggered by a former employee's alleged misuse of an agency credit card.

Kimberlee Reiderman, who resigned as coordinator of the Mental Health Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa counties' “Help Me Grow” program in October, 2002, has repaid nearly $4,900 that she apparently spent last year on personal items, executive director Kirk Halliday said yesterday.

An internal investigation by the Sandusky-based agency found that Ms. Reiderman used state grant funds meant to buy cribs, safety kits, diapers, and baby food on gift cards, groceries, and medicine for family members, Mr. Halliday said. Ms. Reiderman, who was paid about $29,000 a year by the agency, has not been charged.

“There was some food and some prescriptions for the employee's children,” Mr. Halliday said. “She apparently was having some financial difficulties. Of course, this is not the way to deal with those difficulties.”

Reached yesterday, Ms. Reiderman declined comment.

The state began auditing the agency in December at the request of Erie County Auditor Jude Hammond. It could release its report this month.

The state auditor's office has completed a preliminary report, but Mr. Halliday and Jen Detwiler, a spokesman for Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery, declined to discuss details of the audit. Mr. Halliday did say, however, that the audit found no evidence of wrongdoing by any other board employees.

Mr. Halliday said agency officials discovered the possible misuse of funds in July, 2002, and found that Ms. Reiderman apparently had made improper purchases on agency credit cards beginning in January.

“It was basically the cards being used for items that were supposedly for clients in the program, but were instead diverted to personal use by the employee,” including gift cards, which can be redeemed for merchandise, Mr. Halliday said.

The board has since reviewed its procedures and now requires a supervisor's approval for all purchases. The purchase of gift cards with program funds has been banned, and agency clients must verify in writing that they have received items bought purchased for them, Mr. Halliday said.

“This is after the horse is out of the barn, but it's to make sure this doesn't happen again,” he said.



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