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Here is the news release from the Indiana Attorney General's office:
RENSSELAER, Ind. – Using the state’s new public accountability law, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office today took legal action against the former business manager of Lake Ridge Schools who is accused of misappropriating more than $133,000 in school funds.
In Jasper County Superior Court today, Zoeller’s office sought and obtained a temporary restraining order freezing the financial assets – including bank accounts and vehicles – of James W. Huddleston of Wheatfield, Ind., until a full audit can be completed. Until resigning in April, Huddleston had been the business manager of Lake Ridge Schools in Gary, Ind.
The Attorney General’s motions for a temporary restraining order and prejudgment attachment were filed under a state law the Legislature passed in 2009 at Zoeller’s urging: House Enrolled Act 1514-2009, the public accountability law.
“This new legal tool allows the State Board of Accounts to notify the Attorney General’s Office through a preliminary audit of potential fraud on public funds much earlier, and allows us to intervene in court to prevent defendants from transferring or concealing assets – preserving them to recover later to reimburse the public treasury,” Zoeller said.
The investigation began in April when the Lake Ridge School Corporation in Gary requested a special audit by the State Board of Accounts or SBoA after the school’s credit union reported suspicious transactions within a school savings account that Huddleston, the business manager, had opened without the knowledge of the superintendent or school board knowledge. Huddleston was the only authorized signature on that account.
A preliminary audit by SBoA examiners found that more than $150,000 – primarily refunds from employee healthcare and prescription drug benefit programs intended for the school’s self-insurance fund – had instead been deposited into Lake Ridge’s savings account. Huddleston had withdrawn $133,624.21 in cash and checks from the account between July 2011 and April 2013, causing the school to incur $525.85 in credit union fees. Huddleston spent the school funds on personal expenses such as credit card payments, electric and gas utility bills, medical, dental and orthodontist bills and payments to auto dealerships and wholesale stores, the preliminary audit found. State law prohibits using public funds to pay for personal items or expenses not related to government business. When school officials became aware of it, Huddleston resigned, the audit said.
In addition to the more than $133,000 misappropriated, the SBoA incurred nearly $7,000 in auditing costs. The total amount of restitution SBoA seeks from Huddleston is $141,149.15.
The State Board of Accounts conducts regularly scheduled audits of government units and, when completed, routinely certifies them to the Attorney General’s Office for collection if audits discover misappropriation of public funds. The 2009 state law allows the SBoA and Attorney General to take action earlier in the process based on a preliminary audit, when public funds would be at risk if the State waited for the regularly scheduled final audit to be completed.
In the motions filed today, the Attorney General’s Office asked the Jasper County Superior Court to freeze Huddleston’s assets, including real estate located in Wheatfield, four vehicles and any bank or retirement accounts. The Attorney General’s Office asked the court to order that Huddleston’s assets not be transferred, concealed or distributed, so that funds would be available to reimburse the school district if the court were to enter a judgment later. Garnishment of any contributions to or benefits from retirement accounts also is sought.
Based on the eventual final audit report, the Attorney General’s Office could file a complaint to recover public funds at a later date, to seek civil collection of the final amount from Huddleston in order to reimburse the school treasury.
Although the misappropriation occurred in Lake County, the State’s motions were filed today in Jasper County because Huddleston resides there. Jasper County Superior Court Judge James R. Ahler granted the temporary restraining order today against Huddleston and set the hearing on the motion for prejudgment attachment and garnishment for May 16.
There was no requirement that the school carry a surety bond or insurance coverage on its former business manager, so any judgment against Huddleston would be his personal responsibility to repay, Zoeller said.
“When a school official is accused of paying personal bills with school funds it is an egregious violation of the public trust, and my office will use all means at our disposal to claw back taxpayers’ money and reimburse the school treasury,” Zoeller said.
The Attorney General’s jurisdiction is civil only, to collect misappropriated public funds that have been misappropriated. Criminal charges, if any, would be the jurisdiction of the county prosecutor and police.
Lowell State Police standing formation
The Indiana State Police Lowell Post held its annual memorial service Tuesday to remember those ISP employees who have given their lives in the line of duty. Troopers were brought to attention and the Indiana State Police Honor Guard presented the colors. Roll call of the fallen was read by Assistant District Commander, First Sergeant Terrance Weems and Area 1 Captain Ed Schroder. Guests at the service included the family of fallen Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick who was killed in the line of duty in December 22, 2003.
First Sgt. Weems presenting proclamation to Patrick family
The Patrick Family was presented by First Sergeant Weems a copy of the Indiana General Assembly House Resolution No. 10 Section 2 introduced by Representative Vernon G. Smith which urges INDOT to erect a memorial to Trooper Patrick at the I-80 EB to Grant Street exit in Gary.
A total of 46 Indiana State Police employees have lost their lives in the line of duty since the Department was formed in 1933.
Since the early days of the Indiana State Police, memorial services have been held each May at all Indiana State Police districts to perpetuate the memory of those who have died in the line of duty.
Sgt. Brian Schnick playing Taps
For a complete listing of Indiana Troopers killed in the line of duty and a summary of their deaths, visit the Indiana State Police website at www.in.gov/isp and click on the “In Memoriam” link on the left side of the page.
[All photos courtesy Indiana State Police Lowell]
Governor Pence will lay a wreath at the memorial today at 8:00 a.m. EDT. The memorial will be open to the public during Statehouse hours, 8:00 a.m. EDT to 5:00 p.m. EDT, today and Thursday, May 9. Doors open to the Statehouse at 7:30 a.m. EDT. Former Governor Bowen's wake will take place in Bremen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church from 11:00 to 3:00 today and from 4:00 to 8:00 on Thursday, May 9.
Tentative results of the Knox Community School Schools Special Election show that voters were apparently not in favor of a construction rehab project at the Palmer Wing of the Knox Elementary School. According to WKVI, of the 1,014 votes cast, 556 were against with 458 in favor of the referendum.
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Sundae Schoon, Republican Director at the Porter County voter registration office reports that 1,816 voters turned out at the polls today of which 1,057 approved the Union township Schools Referendum with 759 against. The tentative results show 58% were in favor with 42% not in favor.
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Crash near the state line has closed the two inside westbound lanes of the Borman (i-80/94)
(traffic camera photo courtesy of INDOT)
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(Photo Courtesy of the Hoosier Lottery)
A Hobart woman told her family last Friday that she was going to the gas station to win 50-thousand dollars, and after purchasing a handful of Wild Cherry Crossword Tripler Scratch-offs, won 50-thousand dollars. Hoosier Lottery officials Kelly Domikaitis purchased the scratch-off lottery tickets, at the Speedway gas station, in the 47-hundred block of 61st Avenue, in Hobart. She says she called her husband and started crying, saying she was joking about winning, and never imagined in a million years it would happen. Domikaitis says she'll use her winnings to help herself transition carrers, as she goes to school while working full-time, and plans to take her family out for a steak dinner.
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(Photo Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office)
Charges were filed Monday against a 36 year old Gary man accused of injuring a pregnant woman in front of her four-year old child. The Lake County Sheriff's Office reports a detective with the department's Children and Family Division investigated an incident recently where the victim says the suspect, Samuel Odisho pushed her down multiple times, knowing she was three-months pregnant, and also allegedly grabbed her while he was going up the stairs, causing her to slide on a rug, leaving burns to her legs, back and elbows, which were visible to officers. Authorities say Odisho also took the victim's and her child's belongings, and fled the area. Anyone with information on his whereabouts contact the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
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LAPORTE, Ind. – Want to learn more about transportation plans for your area? The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is hosting an open house for Northwest Indiana from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. this Thursday, May 9th, at its LaPorte District Office, 315 E. Boyd Blvd., LaPorte, IN. INDOT officials will provide an overview of the planning and public involvement information available during the open house.
As part of a public comment period that ends May 24, INDOT has published a Draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) that lists regionally significant transportation projects or projects using federal funds during Fiscal Years 2014 through 2017. Draft STIP information will be available for review during the open houses and the public is invited to submit written comments. The Draft STIP and an electronic comment form are also available day or night at: http://www.in.gov/indot/3132.htm.
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The Fire and Building Safety Division of IDHS is responsible for inspecting hundreds of public structures a year, including schools, child care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants and hotels.
“Building safety and fire prevention officials, architects, engineers and all those in the construction industry, work year-round to ensure the places we live, learn, work, worship and play are safe,” said Dean Illingworth of IDHS’s Division of Fire and Building Safety. “Countless lives have been saved due to the implementation of building and fire safety codes by state and local code officials.”
Building codes address all aspects of construction, from structural to fire prevention, plumbing and mechanical systems, and energy efficiency. To ensure buildings are safe requires the active participation of code officials, fire inspectors, architects, builders, engineers, contractors and others in the construction industry, as well as property owners.
Hoosiers can make the places they live safer by taking simple steps. A few are:
• Install smoke alarms outside sleeping areas on each level of your home.
• Test your smoke alarm each month and change the batteries at least once a year.
• Develop a family action plan for a disaster, and include an escape plan from every room in the house in case of a fire.
• Use surge protective devices to protect electronic appliances.
• Routinely check the condition of electrical appliances and wiring for damage.
• To avoid damage and injuries during an earthquake, hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, or anywhere people sit, and store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china, in low, closed cabinets with latches.
Building Safety Week is part of a larger National Building Safety Month. This year’s theme is Code Officials Keep You Safe. Each week of Building Safety Month spotlights a specific area of building safety: Fire Safety and Awareness, May 6‐12; Disaster Safety and Mitigation, May 13‐19; Backyard and Pool Safety, May 20‐26; and Energy and Green Building, May 27‐31.
You can view the Governor’s proclamation at GetPrepared.IN.gov.
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Governor's Portrait, Otis R. Bowen, painted 1978; Artist: Everett Raymond Kinstler
Indiana Governor Mike Pence is encouraging Hoosiers from around the state to pay tribute to former Governor Otis R. Bowen by signing condolence books at a Statehouse memorial Wednesday and Thursday. Visitors will also have the opportunity to view former Governor Bowen's portrait and bust and learn more about his career and extensive background in public service.
"A dynamic leader, Governor Otis R. Bowen made innumerable contributions to the state in the areas of taxes, healthcare and government administration," said Governor Pence. "I invite Hoosiers from all corners of Indiana to visit his public memorial to pay tribute to this tremendous Hoosier and public servant."
Governor Pence will lay a wreath at the memorial tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. EDT. The memorial will be open to the public during Statehouse hours, 8:00 a.m. EDT to 5:00 p.m. EDT, on Wednesday, May 8, and Thursday, May 9. Doors open to the Statehouse at 7:30 a.m. EDT. Bowen served as Indiana's Governor January 9, 1973-January 13, 1981.
Former Governor Bowen's wake will take place in Bremen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church from 11:00 to 3:00 on Wednesday, May 8, and from 4:00 to 8:00 on Thursday, May 9.
- Dunewood Campground Fee Goes Up
- Wet Fields Delay Planting
- EC Waterfront Meeting
- Indiana Among Best for Business
- Governor to Sign School Safety Bill
- Special Elections in the Region
- Council Approves Lake Tax
- Teen Dies After Being Shot While In Vehicle in Gary Saturday
- Train Derailment in Gary Closes Parts of 9th Ave
- Horse Put Down on WB I-94 After Falling Out of Trailer
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