The Starke County Commissioners emerged from an Executive Session yesterday to announce financial improprieties involving taxpayer money by Jennie Carter. Carter is the Coalition Coordinator for Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County.
According to County Attorney Martin Lucas, the commissioners came to the conclusion that Carter committed financial improprieties by transferring funds from the Convention and Visitors Board to the Tourism Board.
Commission President Kathy Norem said they have her signature on a letter that she had taken some money inappropriately. The total amount was $7,140.00. It was also reported that she has paid back $6,113.80 of the funds.
She had met with the Tourism Board admitting to taking the funds from one of the accounts, and wanted the opportunity to pay the money back. Debbie Mix, Starke County Chamber Executive Director and Tourism Board member, said the board never voted to (as she said) “sweep the matter under the rug.”
“We didn’t have a discussion until January of this year. It isn’t really something that the Board hesitated on and didn’t take action on because they thought it was just going to blow over. That certainly was not the case at all,” said Mix.
The Starke County Tourism Board is registered with the Secretary of State’s office and is a non-profit organization created on May 1st of 2003.
The county commissioners asked that the entire Tourism Board resign immediately. Commissioner Dan Bridegroom said, “This has been known for months and only came to us because the person didn’t pay all the money back.”
The commissioners said they became involved because Carter serves on various boards that come before them to have monies approved. The Starke County Council then appropriates the funds. The commissioners appointed Carter to the Innkeepers Board and have asked for her removal.
In a motion, the commissioners also asked that Carter turn over Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County financial records, notify other board officers of the situation, and inform the Starke County Prosecutor of the discovered improprieties.