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Callaway County officials have increased oversight and protected taxpayer dollars, according to a follow-up report from State Auditor Nicole Galloway released Thursday.

The auditor's office issued the report after an audit last fall determined former county collector Pam Oestreich had misappropriated more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds.

"Our audits provide recommendations for officials to put in place increased oversight and better safeguards for public dollars, and that's especially important after fraud occurs," Galloway said in a news release. "By implementing the recommendations of the audit, Callaway County officials are working to protect those taxpayer dollars and restore the trust of citizens."

Auditors from Galloway's office met with county officials earlier this month to discuss a draft version of the report.

"We had a wonderful meeting with them," Callaway County Commissioner Gary Jungermann said. "They see we're making a lot of headway. In some areas, we've achieved what they told us, and in others, we're making good progress."

In March, U.S. District Judge Stephen Bough sentenced Oestreich to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. The court also ordered Oestreich to pay $379,588 in restitution to the county, which includes approximately $280,000 in direct damages and $99,588 in indirect damages (such as audit expenses) resulting from her theft.

The company holding Oestreich's surety bond, Ohio Casualty Insurance Company, agreed to pay the county the amount found by Galloway's audit — $316,000.

The current county collector has reviewed questionable transactions made by her predecessor and is ensuring sufficient documentation is maintained to support all transactions, Galloway said.

The follow-up report also found the appropriate Callaway County officials — including the County Commission, the county clerk, county auditor and county collector — are working to improve oversight measures to ensure public resources are safeguarded and accounted for.

The audit highlighted a total of 13 areas of concern and made recommendations in those areas. The follow-up report found seven of the recommendations had been implemented, another five were in progress and the other recommendation had been partially implemented.

Jungermann said some suggested changes involve coordination between multiple offices, which takes longer to implement. He said all suggestions should be in place within the next year.

"I think we're heading in a great direction," he said. "We're going to continue to make things better and multiple people have eyes on things so this won't happen again."

And if someone does try to game the system again, they'll be caught when the total is in the hundreds of dollars, not hundreds of thousands, Jungermann added.

Implemented recommendations include, among others:

Pursuing prosecution of Oestreich to recover the misappropriated money.

Having the county collector pursue complete and accurate annual settlements.

Developing a system to monitor property tax changes and limiting access to that software.

Promptly recording and disbursing all property tax collections.

Preparing complete and accurate monthly bank account reconciliations.

To see the full report, including in-progress recommendations, visit bit.ly/2ywsw48.

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