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Defiance County authorities are expected to consider next week whether to pursue criminal charges related to accusations of improper spending of public funds by the county's former senior center director, who is running for county commissioner as a write-in candidate.
Meanwhile, the county commissioners are to discuss possible negotiations with the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio Inc., which gives the county more than $240,000 a year in federal and state funds for the senior center.
A state audit of the senior center released this week found that more than $40,000 was spent improperly. "Our sneaking feeling is they're probably going to want the money," Defiance County Commissioner Thomas Kime said. "It's all taxpayer money."
The Area Office board is to discuss the situation on Oct. 28.
Diana Mayer, who was removed in June from her longtime position as senior center director and is running for commissioner against Mr. Kime in the Nov. 2 election, did not return calls from The Blade yesterday. Her attorney, Richard Farrar, told The Blade yesterday that he was unaware the audit was released on Thursday and said he did not know if charges were likely.
"The people I've talked to see nothing wrong," he said.
Ms. Mayer is accused of using taxpayer money to pay for the wedding of a senior-center employee, groceries for the widow of the senior center's late business manager, and a dinner for an employee after the employee's husband died, according to statements given to the Defiance County Sheriff's Office by senior-center employees.
The audit said she claimed reimbursements from a fund earmarked specifically for lunches for seniors but was using part of it to serve breakfasts and snacks.
Ms. Mayer does not appear to have gained personally from the improper spending, Sheriff David Westrick said, which might make felony charges against her unlikely.
"The Robin Hood-type crimes are hard to get convictions on," Sheriff Westrick said.
The case is under review for misdemeanor prosecution, said David Williams, who is Defiance city law director and the police prosecutor for Defiance Municipal Court.
Sheriff Westrick said he hoped authorities will decide early next week whether to file charges against Ms. Mayer, but added, "This has been an awfully slow process."
The sheriff's office has been investigating Ms. Mayer's spending at the senior center since early April, when it received a complaint from the Area Office on Aging. But authorities delayed considering charges until the state audit was finished, Sheriff Westrick said.
The special audit by the Ohio attorney general's office will cost the county's senior center fund $14,700, said Otto Nicely, a county commissioner who is on the Area Office on Aging board.
"That's money we can't spend on our seniors," he said.
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