2014-09-16 / Front Page

Charges Against Former Auditor Await ISP, SBOA Investigations

County Has Began An Inquiry With Bonding, Insurance Companies
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer


Angie Lawson, who most recently served as the county’s chief deputy auditor, prepares sandwiches during the 2013 Owen County Community Picnic. Although under investigation for alleged theft of county funds and misuse of county credit cards, Lawson will remain on the upcoming general election ballot for county clerk and still maintains her seat on the Owen County Council. (SEW File Photo) Angie Lawson, who most recently served as the county’s chief deputy auditor, prepares sandwiches during the 2013 Owen County Community Picnic. Although under investigation for alleged theft of county funds and misuse of county credit cards, Lawson will remain on the upcoming general election ballot for county clerk and still maintains her seat on the Owen County Council. (SEW File Photo) The alleged theft of more than $250,000 from the county’s coffers by former employee and current elected official Angie Lawson remains under investigation by the Indiana State Police (ISP) and Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA).

Public outrage continues to grow with questions as to why no charges have been filed at the local, state and federal levels, but sources close to the investigation say eventual justice is simply a matter of time.

“Any criminal prosecution on this matter still awaits a complete and thorough review of all the records related to the transactions,” county attorney Richard Lorenz said. “Both federal and state prosecutors await information concerning the total number of dollars involved, nature of the transactions, and assurances that no other persons are involved. This is simply going to take some time.”

Meanwhile, SBOA personnel continue to comb through county financial records. Their findings will need to be finalized prior to any charges being filed.

“We are aware that sources external to State Board of Accounts have raised potential issues facing Owen County and the former auditor, however, per statute it is unlawful for us to make any disclosure until a report, if any, is made public,” explained Debbie Gibson, CPA, who serves as the SBOA’s Director of County Services.

Lorenz says the county has made preliminary inqui- ry with the county’s bonding company CNA - Western Surety Company and insurance provider EMC Insurance Companies. He said he does not know with certainty that the bond or insurance coverage will reimburse the county for theft of funds by a county employee or elected official.

“The bonding and insurance companies involved with the county’s casualty loss policies have been notified. I am assisting the county and working with the adjuster to prepare appropriate claims,” he said. “Even this procedure is complicated by the separate years, separate policies, and coverage terms of many of the transactions. The county is on a 120-day opportunity to file its claims. Conversely, there may be other companies that will be relevant as we develop the time line for any malfeasance. In other words, all claims are tied to the date upon which they occurred, and not necessarily to the current policy. The insurance and bonding coverages may apply, but it will again depend upon the limits of the policies or on the dates of any particular malfeasance. The county will be aggressively pursuing the recovery under these coverages, but there are issues concerning the dates of the transactions involved, which policies are involved, what limits are involved, and when discovery was made. This is why the details of the illegal transactions are so important and why the investigation takes time.”

Lorenz noted that the county does not have a ‘blanket bond,’ because limitations of coverage were not believed to be valuable. He said the general liability policy does cover this type of casualty and to the same degree of policy limits. Lawson herself had not been bonded since becoming an appointed employee in 2013. She was bonded through Western Surety throughout her time as the elected county auditor, from 2006 through 2010 at an amount of $15,000 per year, and in 2011 and 2012 for $30,000 each year.

After news of the local investigation broke in August, some began to question whether Lawson had ever faced a similar investigation during her time with the Tippecanoe County Clerk’s Office. However, current Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey tells the Spencer Evening World she has no reason to believe there were ever any allegations of missing funds or thefts during Lawson’s tenure. During her time with the office as chief deputy clerk from 1995 to 1998, Lawson, then known as Angie Wellard Rock, did coincidently hire an employee who was terminated in June of this year and remains under investigation by the ISP and SBOA for suspected theft of funds.

“I terminated an employee in June for theft, who was hired by Angie,” Coffey said. “They were friends and they stayed friends, seeing each other at conferences and things... it’s just kind of ironic.”

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