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Police study 'questionable' card spending at Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 5:57 p.m.

Grove City police are reviewing an audit that identifies more than $70,000 in undocumented or questionable credit card spending by the former head of the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV.

Of nearly $114,000 in bills Cecelia Yauger charged to one of the unit's American Express cards from August 2007 through April 30, nearly $71,500 are “undocumented/questionable,” while the rest are classified as business-related expenses, according to the audit.

“(The charges) are not labeled as illegal or unauthorized,” Yauger's attorney, Eugene Tempesta of McCandless, said Tuesday. “You can either substantiate something or you can't. It doesn't make something illegal if it's not documented. It doesn't make it wrong or unauthorized.”

Yauger resigned April 24, nearly a month after the board placed her on administrative leave when questions surfaced about her expense reimbursements. A Pittsburgh attorney filed a Right-To-Know request March 4 on behalf of a client seeking records about the use of credit cards by employees of the unit, which serves students with disabilities in Mercer, Lawrence and Butler counties.

Board policy allowed Yauger to approve her own expenses, but IU board members said she did too little to account for them, supplying fewer than two dozen receipts for thousands of dollars in purchases. The IU-commissioned audit compared purchases to business trips Yauger took, or when she was off. It lists nearly $37,500 in Saturday or Sunday purchases. Auditing firm Hill, Barth & King cautioned that the biller might have posted charges on weekends that actually occurred on weekdays.

The audit listed undocumented expenses including: 60 charges at Costco totaling $9,731; 29 charges for nearly $2,200 at Pat Catan's; 76 charges for nearly $2,400 at Rite Aid; and 109 charges at Sheetz totaling $1,635.

“Many of these (charges) were things done on an annual, historic, traditional basis,” Tempesta said, though he did not provide specifics.

Of the purchases listed on weekends and Yauger's days off, Tempesta said, “She was going above and beyond and doing things that she needed to do for the intermediate unit on her own time.”

The board approved Yauger's retirement on April 24, the day she resigned, allowing her to apply unused vacation and sick days, at a rate of $100 a day, toward any money she may owe the intermediate unit. The intermediate unit said Yauger had 244 accumulated sick days and six unused vacation days.

Grove City police Cpl. Matthew Ran said the investigation into her spending continues. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday.

Yauger acknowledged in her resignation that she could owe the intermediate unit money.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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