NEW CARLISLE -- Someone with access to Olive Township's debit card made more than $1,600 in unauthorized ATM withdrawals at three casinos in Indiana and Minnesota between 2009 and 2011, according to an audit of the township's finances by the State Board of Accounts.
Not only that, but someone altered the corresponding bank statements in an attempt to conceal the transactions, made at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, and Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minn., the report states.
And that's not all.
Also according to the report, Olive Township trustee John Michalski:
-- Failed to report or pay taxes on more than $600 in additional income he received from the township for maintaining a township-owned lot;
-- Failed to provide sufficient documentation to support various township expenses, including assistance payments, totaling more than $3,700;
-- Failed to reimburse the township the cost of a prescription medication in his name paid for with the township debit card; and
-- Failed to properly reconcile the township's bank balance, resulting in a negative balance of more than $1,500.
Michalski, a Democrat, could not be reached for comment Thursday. The township office was closed and he did not return two messages left at his home.
The trustee reportedly reimbursed the township a total of $7,671.29 on July 17, including $1,634.74 related to the unauthorized ATM withdrawals, as requested in the report.
He so far has not complied, however, with a separate request that he reimburse the board the same amount for additional costs incurred in conducting the audit as a result of poor or nonexistent records or inadequate bookkeeping practices in the trustee's office, according to the state report.
"I have a real concern about the cost of the audit," he wrote in an official response to the report, dated July 17. "I'm not at all concerned with the cost of travel, supplies, etc. What I am concerned about is the cost of a supervisor and auditor. These people are in the state budget as a line item."
As a matter of course, the report has been forwarded to the attorney general and the local prosecutor for review.
Lora Bentley, spokeswoman for county Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, confirmed by e-mail Thursday that he had received the report. "We have not fully reviewed it as of yet," she wrote. "We will conduct a full review to determine if there is any criminal culpability."
News of the report comes just three days after the sentencing of former Penn Township Trustee Jeff Dean, also a Democrat, to 90 days in jail in connection with a ghost employment case involving his former secretary and live-in girlfriend.
County Republicans took the opportunity Thursday to again bash local Democrats.
"It is yet another example of (a Democrat) getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar," Jake Teshka, the party's executive director, said in a news release. "I am tired of it. The people of this county are tired of it."
Said party Chairwoman Deb Fleming, "The citizens of this county deserve better than what the corrupt Democrat party has to offer."
State Sen. John Broden, chairman of the county Democratic Party, did not return two phone calls for comment before press time Thursday. Township advisory board members Myles Hooten and James Rodgers, both Republicans, also could not be reached.
Board President Clark Hensell, for his part, said he considered the issue resolved.
"Everything is settled with the township," the Republican said, referring to the $7,671.29 returned by Michalski in July.
Asked if he could be confident now in Michalski's ability to lead the office, Hensell said, "Totally," adding, "I've never had any indication that he's not doing a perfect job."
Staff writer Erin Blasko:
State: Casino charges on Olive Township card
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