Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2005

Willow Springs money missing

June 30, 2005

The FBI is looking into "accounting irregularities" within the Willow Springs Township, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Tuesday.

The township's treasurer, Bruce Ausherman, has resigned, county leaders said.

"It appears there may have been some improprieties," Douglas County Commission Chairman Charles Jones said. "My sense was that an irregularity showed up, that they scratched the surface a little bit and they found what appeared to be misuse of funds."

The problems came to light in February, when a county employee found an apparent discrepancy in the township's spending records. The township reported to the county that it spent more than $235,000 on rock between 2002 and 2004, but there were no invoices for some of those purchases and there are questions about whether some of that money was used for other purposes.

Jones and County Commissioner Jere McElhaney both said they did not know the exact amount of money believed to be missing. Law enforcement officials would not go into details of the case.

Ausherman, who was first elected township treasurer in 2000, declined comment.

"I can't fill you in until the investigation is done. That's basically all I can say," he said.

McElhaney said he accepted Ausherman's resignation about six weeks ago.

"If we had the possibility of any wrongdoing whatsoever, I thought it was probably in the best interests of the township and the residents for Mr. Ausherman to step down," McElhaney said.

The township trustee, Charles Wintermantel, referred all questions to the sheriff's office.

Lt. Stephen Brown, a sheriff's spokesman, released a brief statement saying the office was investigating with the FBI, but he said the department did not plan to release further details. An FBI spokeswoman declined comment.

Dist. Atty. Charles Branson, who reviewed the matter, declined to talk about facts of the case or say why the FBI was involved.

The township, one of nine in Douglas County, covers about 40 square miles south of Lawrence and provides basic services such as fire protection and road maintenance. Its main source of funding is residents' tax dollars, and in 2004 it received a $69,943 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In 2004, the township reported to the county that it spent a total of $261,625. "Road rock" was listed as the township's major expense ($92,533) followed by supplies, repairs and parts ($48,707) and wages ($37,690).

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