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Milltown moving on after ex-clerk

Felony theft charges to be filed against former clerk

June 27, 2012
Milltown officials say the town still is feeling the effects of the poor job done by its former clerk-treasurer, who is facing two Class D felony counts of theft, but things are improving.

Evanelle Goss, who served from Jan. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2011, rarely gave thorough reports to the town council, making it difficult for various departments to operate, said Curt Hudson, president of the council.

"It was so bad that our town manager, Jim Pevlor, had to, on several occasions, review various funds and try to determine if there were funds available for his department to function," he said.

Jean Melton, another member of the council, agreed that not having those reports made it difficult for the town to know where it was financially.

"We requested reports routinely, and they were promised," she said. "Different departments had difficulty knowing where they stood financially. Once in a while, we would receive reports, far after the fact."

Hudson added that, due to a lack of reporting for a housing grant the town received years ago, the town still cannot apply for grant funding. He said the current clerk-treasurer, Susan Mills, is working with state agencies to correct those failures and restore the town's eligibility.

In addition, the council, earlier this month, had to give the town's sewer fund a temporary loan of $18,000 from its riverboat fund "as a result of another failure of the clerk-treasurer's office," Hudson said. (See story, front page.)

Goss, who did not seek re-election, became the subject of a special prosecutor after an SBA audit of the town's finances for the period of Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010, alleged misappropriation by her.

The SBA audit ordered Goss to repay the town $9,874.10. It alleged that Goss overpaid herself $8,895.38 during the two years and used $160.72 of town money to purchase a cell phone and service agreement plan. The audit also stated there is no record of proper deposit of collections in the amount of $818.

The report, which is available online at www.in.gov/sboa, noted the findings were discussed with Goss on April 17, and, while she indicated she would respond, no official response had been received by the time it was made public.

The special prosecutor, Barry S. Brown of Bloomington, who was appointed by Crawford County Judge Lynn Lopp, said the two counts of thefts for which he will be filing charges do not reflect the scope of Goss' alleged criminal conduct but are representative and will hold her accountable for her misdeeds if the state is successful in getting a conviction.

A previous audit of Milltown, which included the first year of Goss' term, also found numerous deficiencies, including Goss making advance payments to herself on 24 occasions in 2008. It also indicated various problems with the town's records and that the 2008 annual report was not presented for audit within 60 days of the end of the calendar year.

In an April 2010 article about the audit, Goss, who sat in on the exit conference with the auditor on Dec. 14, 2009, admitted error but said the audit was helpful.

"I made mistakes. I admit it," she said, calling the audit process a "learning experience."

"Everything in the audit has been taken care of," Goss said.

However, besides allegedly overpaying herself, Goss, according to the most recent audit, made advance payments to herself on 84 occasions, ranging from one to 92 days early, from 2009 through 2011.

The report also found the 2010 annual financial report was not filed until Nov. 3, 2011, and that the reports for 2009 and 2010 were materially misstated.

"The reports allegedly did not include all of the funds of the Town, and the receipts and disbursements reported for some funds did not agree to the Town's records," according to the audit. "Also, the majority of receipts were classified incorrectly as other receipts."

Since the clerk-treasurer is an elected official, it is equal to the town council on the organization chart, meaning there was little, if anything, the council could do to rectify the past problems.

"I'm sure that the problems that Milltown faced are not uncommon throughout communities large and small within the state. We need for our state legislators to work together to come up with solutions for these problems," Hudson said. "As it is, there is no realistic process for removal from office if the officeholder is not performing the necessary duties of the office to which they were elected."

The SBA, he said, is simply a reporting agency and the Attorney General's office only will act if there is a criminal offense committed.

"In the end, currently, being inept can get you four years in office," Hudson said.

Melton, however, said things are "running much better" now with Mills as clerk-treasurer.

"She had a massive clean-up task but has done a great job," she said.

Hudson agreed, adding, "She's very professional, keeps regular hours and is doing an amazing job."

Mills, he said, is using a new accounting system purchased by the town that allows for several monthly reports, including voucher summary, check register, revenue received, appropriation balances, transaction receipts and vendor reports.

"It's great to finally have these available so we can make decisions," Hudson said, "all the while knowing that we have accurate data."

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