While the two sides in the New Miami speed camera case are fighting over the judge appointing a financial watchdog, court testimony shows actual spending and the village fiscal officer’s recollection differ.
New Miami Fiscal Officer Belinda Ricketts took the stand during a hearing with Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster on Thursday, to discuss the village’s financial situation.
Ricketts confirmed the village does not currently have funds to satisfy a potential $3 million-plus judgment. The village has $1.7 million in its checking account and $535,000 in a money market account, she testified.
When asked by Tony Raluy, outside counsel for the village, if New Miami has had “any extraordinary expenditures” since it first installed the speed cameras in 2012, Ricketts replied: “We replaced a couple roofs, we paved some parking lots, we bought two used street plow trucks ...”
However, a previous Journal-News investigationinto the village’s spending in 2013 differs from that testimony.
2014 INVESTIGATION: New Miami increased spending with speed camera cash
The village spent nearly $210,000 in 2013 — the only time the cameras were rolling all year — on new cars, trucks and equipment for vehicles, including two 2013 Dodge Chargers and a 2013 Dodge Ram for the police department, a snow plow and a 2014 Ford F- 250 truck for the street department, according to documents obtained by the newspaper for that report.
In addition, raises were given to some employees, with some nearly doubling. A full-time staffer was hired to help enforce the village’s housing codes, and five employees received $8,000 in reimbursements for out-of-pocket health insurance premiums.
Overall, expenditures in the village’s general fund increased by roughly $430,000 from 2012 to 2013, according to the Journal-News investigation.
When asked about the discrepancy between the documents and the fiscal officer’s testimony, Raluy said Ricketts was only thinking about “extraordinary” spending, not salaries or vehicles when she took the stand.
An investigation into the village’s more recent spending habits shows more frugal tendencies.
State audit reports show ending general fund cash balances for the village were at a high of $1.66 million in 2013 — the only full year of operation under the old program — and has remained in the $1.3 million range since. Spending out of the general fund has remained pretty constant as well. It dipped about $100,000 in 2014, dropped down to $538,065 the next year.
Since the lawsuit started the village has paid $319,604 — through June — for attorneys fees.
Oster has not issued a final ruling on how much the village must repay speeders — the total $3.2 million collected under the old speed program, or around $1.8 million that actually went into village coffers.
Oster will hold a hearing next week and announce his decision on the financial watchdog request.