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State auditor says fired fiscal officer owes Milan $3,000

By Tom Jackson • May 27, 2019 at 1:00 PM

MILAN — Former Milan fiscal officer Mary Bruno overpaid herself almost $3,000 while working at home on medical leave, according to a state audit released Thursday.

The audit released by State Auditor Keith Faber says it has issued a “finding for recovery” of $2,979. An attorney for Milan said he will seek to recover the money from Bruno, who still lives in Milan and was fired from her job in 2017.

Bruno, meanwhile, is pressing a federal lawsuit against Milan and village officials, filed last year, which claims she was fired without cause while she was sick with cancer and handling additional duties other officials were too incompetent to deal with.

Milan suspended Bruno from her job in January 2017. She had the position for 16 years. A letter to Bruno from the village claimed, "timesheet irregularities, overpayments and failure to balance the village's books.” The Milan Village Council then voted to fire Bruno in February 2017, citing “malfeasance,” and the state auditor’s office began an audit.

The audit finally released Thursday claims Bruno improperly collected sick leave while working and charged the village time-and-a-half when she should have received regular pay.                                

Faber said in a statement released by his office that Bruno should not have had sole responsibility for the payroll.               

“Internal financial controls are the first line of defense against fraud and a lack of proper controls is part of what contributed to this problem in the first place,” Faber said. “Village leadership has since divided up payroll processing duties, ensuring that no one will take advantage of taxpayers like this again.”

Port Clinton attorney James Barney, Milan’s solicitor, said Thursday he’ll contact Bruno to begin the process of recovering the $2,979 Bruno owes the village.

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said no criminal charges are planned.

Baxter said special prosecutor Dean Holman, a former prosecutor for Medina County, reviewed the case when the Erie County Sheriff’s Office carried out an initial probe. Holman found Bruno claimed she had followed instructions from the former village solicitor. Holman decided it would be hard to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt, Baxter said.

Bruno’s lawsuit, filed in February 2018 in federal court in Toledo and assigned to District Judge Jack Zouhary, asserts she was fired “unlawfully” and in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act.

Bruno’s lawsuit claims in addition to her normal duties, she had to take on additional work while dealing with cancer “due to accounting errors made by the utility office and completing work for the village administrator that he negligently or willfully failed to address.”

It also claims she asked the village for instructions in writing in how to charge Milan for her time but was never given a document.

Bruno claims she was suspended during an illegal executive session by the village council. She said she learned she was about to be fired when the village police chief accidentally sent her a text message meant for someone else. Bruno said she almost obtained another job from Sandusky Schools but lost it when school officials were falsely told she stole money from Milan.

A court document shows Zouhary had a phone conference with attorneys handling the lawsuit and learned depositions are still being taken from key witnesses. Zouhary scheduled another phone conference for June 28.

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