State AG wants library board to make it right
BY BOB KOSTANCZUK email@example.com April 19, 2011 10:04PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
State Attorney General Greg Zoeller has filed a lawsuit against six current or former East Chicago Library Board members, seeking repayment of about $182,000 in health and life insurance benefits which he said they received at taxpayer expense but were not entitled to get.
The attorney general’s complaint also alleges that those six defendants plus two other library board members should be held “jointly responsible” for reimbursing $12,378 billed to the library by former library director Manuel “Manny” Montalvo for his non-work-related expenses. Montalvo was fired last month.
The amount that each of the six defendants owes in insurance premiums that were improperly paid ranges from $642 to $52,636, the state says.
Board President Clifton Johnson owes the highest amount of $52,636, according to a news release from the Indiana attorney general. However, Johnson said Tuesday that he believed acceptance of the health and life insurance benefits had been cleared.
“We were advised by our legal counsel and our director that the payments were OK, so we accepted them,” Johnson said. “I don’t get it anymore, so I don’t have a comment on whether it’s proper. As I said, we were advised by the library’s attorney that it was, so we continued to receive them.”
As for the more than $52,000 that the state says must be repaid, Johnson had a direct rebuke: “I don’t believe that I owe that.”
The attorney general, in his complaint, says the six defendants owe the following amounts in insurance premiums improperly paid:
Diana Garcia-Burns, $642.60
Hector Cavazos, $27,965.53
Chasidy Gomez, $44,686.90
Clifton Johnson, $52,636.26
Gary McCracken, $24,604.76
Aldolfo Velez, $31,673.49
The library board’s website indicates Velez’s first name is Adolfo.
According to the attorney general, the State Board of Accounts recently completed a supplemental audit of the East Chicago Public Library, after an initial audit report found that then-director Montalvo billed the library for numerous ineligible travel and personal expenses that must be reimbursed, including 11 days of per diem in Puerto Rico, a political fundraiser and personal vehicle repairs. Montalvo declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit.
The State Board of Accounts found that current and former library board members received health, dental, vision and life insurance benefits through the library, but failed to pay any insurance premiums during 2008, 2009 and 2010. The premiums, instead, were wrongly charged to the library, an illegal practice, the attorney general said.
“For the library board members to allow the entire cost of their insurance benefits to be shifted onto the taxpayers when they were entitled to no compensation is a misuse of public dollars,” Zoeller said in a prepared statement.
Three other current or former library board members are named in the lawsuit with the six defendants who are accused of negligence for approving payment of library funds for Montalvo’s ineligible expenses, Zoeller’s press release says.