New Castle News

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July 15, 2014

Our Opinion: Who’s watching the money in Shenango Township?

NEW CASTLE — The Shenango Township supervisors have some explaining to do.

And that’s putting it mildly.

Word that the Lawrence County District Attorney’s office is investigating checks for township money issued to Shenango’s secretary/treasurer Brian Tanner and auditor Deno DeLorenzo has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Unexplained expenditures in public funds of more than $453,000 will have that effect on people. That’s doubly true when citizens can’t tell if there are other shoes waiting to drop.

Yesterday, the supervisors faxed a statement to The News that said Tanner had been placed on “administrative leave” as a result of the matter.

And the supervisors have scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday in the township building. We presume the supervisors will respond to public concerns at that time.

For the record, the New Castle News has been exploring aspects of this story since it broke Friday. Key to that effort is getting the supervisors to explain the situation. Let’s just say they have been making themselves awfully scarce.

So we don’t have many details about this matter right now. What we do know comes mainly from allegations contained in search warrant applications for the township building and Tanner’s home office.

Those allegations paint a disturbing picture, not only in regard to questions about financial transfers, but also how they apparently went on for years without the supervisors knowing about them.

According to those documents, investigators believe Tanner issued checks to himself and to DeLorenzo over a three-year period, using both his signature and a second stamped signature of Larry Herman, the former supervisor chairman.

While it’s good practice for the township to require two signatures on a check, turning a stamped signature over to the other person authorized to sign makes absolutely no sense. We hope the supervisors can offer some explanation as to why that was allowed to occur.

And we would expect clarity for how these checks — which investigators indicate were issued frequently over the three-year time frame in question — could have escaped the scrutiny of the supervisors.

After all, they are the duly elected representatives of the taxpayers of Shenango Township. Shouldn’t they be expected to review finances and perhaps question where hundreds of thousands of dollars were going?

Also, taxpayers deserve to know what the supervisors intend to do now to shore up township oversight. That could be a tough sell for watchdogs who apparently haven’t been particularly vigilant to date. But taxpayers have to hold them to it.

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