Nearly $22,000 still missing after audit in Knox

KNOX, Ind. -– The results are in and some thousands of dollars are still missing from Starke County.

Auditor Katherine Chaffins said, “I check on their figures. They check on our figures; but somewhere along the line that system failed.”

Chaffins went through the county records from 2009-10 after the county treasurer, Linda Belork, was removed from that position on Aug. 11.

Since then, a scandal has erupted around town.

“I’ve heard a rumor or two to that effect, yeah,” Kenny Vlach said.

Much of the talk inside was about the drama at the Starke County Building.  Many people tried to guess where the money went.

“I don’t know if she took it, but if she did I wish I was better friends with her,” one woman said of Belork.

But right now, no one is really sure what happened or where it went.

“The people I talked to didn’t know which way it was if it was misappropriated or just misfiled or what," Valch said.

Initially, it looked like hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing.  Then Chaffins went through all of the records.

“I found enough errors to get it down to $21,000,” said the auditor.

Chaffins said there were a large number of errors made in the county’s record keeping. Through those errors, she was able to track down most of the missing money, which she said had been spent accordingly, just not documented properly.

“It’s like when you buy something with your debit card, but don’t write it down.  When you go to balance your account, the numbers don’t match up,” Chaffins said.

Valch and many other people in the county don’t buy that excuse.

“I know I check my bank statements all the time along with my checkbook,” said Valch.

The errors got Belrock removed from her elected position as county treasurer, and her two deputies fired from the office.  Chaffin said the mistakes occurred in her office, the auditor’s office, but the State Board of Accounts held the treasurer accountable.

“Every month the auditor’s office is supposed to check with the reports and transactions with the treasurer’s office and vice versa,” Chaffins said.

According to Chaffins, when she took office in January of this year; Belork already had a policy in place that prevented anyone from looking at the county’s bank statements but her.

“In every other county in Indiana, the auditor has that ability.  It was just in this county the auditor decided no one but herself was allowed to see the bank account.”

Valch said the people with the county should have known right away something what not right what a policy like that in place.

“It’s a little odd isn’t it… If you don’t have anything to hide, you wouldn’t hide it right?” questioned Valch.

Chaffins admitted it looks bad, but said she doesn’t believe it’s what people think.

“I think by no intention of her own, she made herself look very suspicious.  I don’t think she realized it at the time,” said Chaffins.

Valch said the community has its concerns with the county and how the money is being handled.  People wonder where some of it has gone.

“I’m sure there is a little bit of speculation now that that much money was reported that it was gone," said Valch.

There is still nearly $22,000 missing.  Chaffins said she will keep looking, but so far has had no luck.

As for Belork, Chaffins said she doesn’t think any criminal charges will be filed, but the former treasurer has filed a lawsuit against the county for wrongful termination.

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