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Thursday, September 13th, 2012

State probes local agency

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - The health department is under investigation by the state for the disbursement of four grants in 2009-2010.
Dale Palmer, administrator for the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department, told board members Wednesday an audit by the Ohio Inspector General is ongoing into the agency's handling of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response grants totaling $346,000.
"We made some honest mistakes at that time," he said. "We might get dinged on this, hopefully not too severe."
Palmer, who was hired as administrator in 2008, said the audit likely will show accounting errors, in part due to a lack of proper software programs used by the clerk at that time. New accounting programs have since been installed.
Palmer said he expects the state to rectify any errors by recommending some type of action taken by the Ohio Department of Health and/or the local agency. He doesn't believe any financial penalties will be levied but hasn't ruled out the possibility the health department could be placed on some type of fiscal watch, he said.
The health department was notified three months ago that a routine audit involving the grants was planned. During the course of the investigation, state officials gathered data from the county auditor, the Ohio Department of Health and the local health department, Palmer said.
Carl Enslen of the external relations division of the Ohio Deputy Inspector General, has said he cannot discuss open investigations. A report likely will be issued if any wrongdoing is discovered, he noted. He gave no indication of how long the audit investigation will last.
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