Audit: City used taxpayer money for former mayor's campaign video

Current mayor requested audit

BEECH GROVE, Ind. - In a scathing audit just released, the State Board of Accounts questioned the finances and bookkeeping at the City of Beech Grove.

Auditors probed the city spending $2,487.50 in taxpayer money for production of a campaign video promoting re-election of former Mayor Joe Wright.
           
The video, titled "Elect Mayor Joe Wright: Being the Incumbent," is still posted on YouTube.            
          
Auditors requested Wright, a Republican, reimburse the city for the campaign expenses, which were paid from the city's general fund in December 2007.

Instead, the Beech Grove Republican Candidates Committee paid the bill, reimbursing the taxpayers on Jan. 3.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney tried to reach Wright at his private sector job and on his cellphone Tuesday afternoon, but was unsuccessful.
          
Wright resigned from his mayor post in January 2011, citing demands from his private sector job.            
          
In addition to the political expenditures, auditors also questioned pages of bookkeeping errors and financial management including poor oversight over the Main Street loan program.
           
"The City has lost money due to lack of seeking timely payment," read the audit.
           
The State Board of Accounts also questioned why the city's redevelopment commission paid more than $50,000 of its bills late.

"Several vendors were paid more than four months after their invoice dates," read the audit. "Officials and employees have the duty to pay claims and remit taxes in a timely fashion."
           
Current mayor Dennis Buckley, a Democrat, said he requested the audit after taking office in January 2012 and noticing six dozen boxes of files missing.
           
"There were taxpayer-backed loans in default and funds that clearly had been spent inappropriately," wrote Buckley in a response to the State Board of Accounts. "The findings in this audit confirm my longstanding suspicions."
           
Kenney spoke with Buckley on the phone Tuesday afternoon, and he said he is working to correct many of the problems uncovered in the audit.
           
"At best, this review showcases the gross negligence of local officials who were elected and appointed to safeguard taxpayer resources but who fell far short of that mission," wrote Buckley in a response to the state. "At worst, there is evidence of questionably ethical behavior amid clear violations of the public trust."

No criminal charges have been filed in response to the audit, but the report has been forwarded to the Marion County prosecutor, Internal Revenue Service and the Indiana State Police.

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