Police investigating concerns at Preble County Habitat for Humanity

The Eaton Police Department has launched an investigation at the Preble County Habitat for Humanity over concerns about overpayments to a former agency director and program applications being falsified, according to police records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

Eaton police in March opened the investigation after concerns — initially relayed to them through a state lawmaker — from an agency board member, records show.

Eaton police redacted much of the initial report, citing the ongoing investigation. Non-redacted portions reference a payroll issue identified in an audit completed last year of the agency’s finances for the year ending in June 2020.

Preble County Prosecutor Martin Votel said there were double payments to former agency executive director Toni Morgan that Habitat for Humanity’s governing board decided were mistakes, not theft.

“It’s an internal matter that was not pursued as a criminal matter,” said Preble County Habitat for Humanity board president Chris Fourman. “It’s a civil matter, not criminal.”

The police officer who took the initial report wrote that “the payroll issue appears to be a civil matter.”

Morgan left the agency in December and is now vice president of operations for the Dayton YWCA. Reached at her office, she said she reported the overpayments to the board prior to the audit.

Morgan said a glitch in the payroll system caused two overpayments on holiday weeks totaling less than $2,000 in 2019 and 2020. She said she requested the money be recouped through payroll deduction, but that wasn’t done prior to her leaving so she entered into a payment plan.

“There were two accidental overpayments through a third-party payroll company which was reported and that I even insisted on saying, ‘Before I leave out of here let’s put something down that we took care of this,’” she said. “That’s hardly indication of someone that was stealing.”

The audit firm, The Seigel Group, charged Habitat for Humanity an extra $3,000 for the audit, saying “a considerable amount of additional time was incurred due to poor communication from former executive director which added to an inefficient audit,” according to a November 2021 invoice included in the police report.

“This was probably the most inefficient audit I have done in my 34 year career,” the auditor wrote in a note on the invoice.

Morgan said it was the first independent audit in the agency’s history, she was working part-time and the overpayment issues — which the board was aware of before the audit — complicated things.

Eaton police are also looking into concerns about Habitat for Humanity program recipients’ applications understating their income to help them qualify for programs, according to the police report.

The report references a 2021 email from Clayton Genth, director of another housing agency called Home is The (HIT) Foundation, expressing concerns.

Genth told the Dayton Daily News that the issue came to light when his agency and Habitat for Humanity tried to work together to help a client, and his agency found the client’s income was misstated.

Morgan said Habitat for Humanity’s formula for eligibility doesn’t take into account all income, so the client’s income was properly tabulated. But, she said, the client didn’t get aid from the organization because she was related to an agency employee. She said that was why they referred her to HIT for help.

“On the day that I said, ‘We can’t help her, refer her to the HIT Foundation,’ that canceled her application,” Morgan said.

Fourman said HIT looked into program application issues as well and found no conclusive evidence of fraud.

Votel said Eaton police have enlisted help from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to determine if any crimes were committed.

Morgan has a prior theft case in Preble County courts. In 2010, she was charged with grand theft related to a bank account she managed for a client of the HIT Foundation, where she then worked, according to Preble County court records.

Morgan pleaded guilty and entered into a diversion program that led to the case being dismissed after she paid $7,165 in restitution, court records show.

Morgan said she entered diversion at her attorney’s recommendation.

“I didn’t steal anything from anyone,” she said.

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