The Starke County Commissioners Thursday removed county treasurer Linda Belork from office. The action was taken after the commissioners received a state audit of the office in which there were a considerable number of irregularities found. The commissioners have filed a complaint for default on the surety bond and damages. The surety bond company, Ohio Casualty Insurance, and Treasurer Linda Belork are named as defendants in the suit. Commissioner Kathy Norem asked for the removal, seconded by Jennifer Davis.
“I think at this point, now that we have filed a lawsuit on her bond, in accordance with Indiana Code 36-2-10-3, I make a motion that we remove the Treasurer from her office,” said Commissioner Kathy Norem. The vote passed unanimously.
A restraining order has been placed on Belork, the deputy Robin Lenig, and a part time employee Jennifer Norem. Both of the employees were terminated.
They were later identified as relatives of the treasurer.
Named as the acting treasurer is Michelle Snowdon, who has past experience in the treasurer’s office. The commissioners are also looking for a deputy treasurer.
Snowdon, until Thursday, was a full time employee in the assessor’s office.
Bridegroom said the amount of money that is unaccounted for is $890,000 and said an outside accounting firm will be required to find out where the missing money is.
“I think this is as far from normal bookkeeping as you can get. We will probably end up having to hire a firm or someone to come in and go through the books. Where we began, just in a conversation with the State Board of Accounts auditor, that every transaction that has come in and gone out of that office will have to be scrutinized. Every piece of paper that has come and gone, every check, cash, everything. I have no idea to say how long that would take. It’s going to be very cumbersome, very expensive, but it has to be done,” said Bridegroom.
In support of the suit, Starke County Auditor Kay Chafins said in the affidavit that she had received credible information including the State Board of Accounts audit of the treasurer’s office for 2009, that suggests that the acts of omissions of Linda Belork have caused or allowed to occur the loss, through negligence, misfeasance, or malfeasance of substantial public funds of the county. Chafins used a figure even higher than the one Bridegroom stated saying possibly it exceeded $900,000.
The Democratic Precinct Commitee will select a successor to the office. However, Linda Belork does have the right to appeal the removal.