SCIOTO — During their final 2020 session, Scioto County Economic Development Director and Southern Ohio Port Authority Chairman Robert Horton presented the Commissioners with a check to erase an outstanding debt years in the making.
That check, coming through SOPA’s general fund, covered $95,234 and would make both entities stronger said, Horton.
“This has been on the books for a while and we would like to make it whole, which in turn would make us whole, the county whole, and above all the taxpayers whole,” he said during the Zoom-formatted meeting on Dec. 15.
Commissioner Bryan Davis, in gratitude of the check, said the debt comes from a loan to SOPA in use of the Incremental project from 2004.
The terms of repayment never being set, the loan went unpaid for years and was present on both SOPA’s and the Commissioners’ audits. In 2017, Davis said SOPA had the money to clear its debt but decided to spend that sum elsewhere.
Through its role in the $350 million-plus PureCycle project, Davis said SOPA is now fully-funded and self-sufficient.
“We appreciate the desire of the board to make that payment, pay that debt, clear that item up on their audit which was huge to get that done,” he said. “This is the last outstanding item that needed to be done in order for everything to be clean.”
More recently, SOPA authority vowed to repay that debt in a September press release to Scioto County residents and during a Sept. 24 Commissioners meeting.
“As we stand here today, the Port Authority is 100% clean and all measures have been put in-place so this will never happen again,” said Horton, detailing new policies enacted by the board.
SOPA’s past administration came under fire for its problematic handling of funds and failure to submit its 2017-2018 financial records to then-Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost.
This failure delayed the release of Auditor Keith Faber’s findings which were made public two days prior to that September Commissioners session.
There, Faber detailed several non-compliance issues including excessive appropriations of $77,730 in 2017 and $100,638 in 2018. He also mentioned separately in a management letter that a credit card been improperly used to purchase $71-worth on alcohol and another $494 on Ohio State Football tickets.
“The actions of the former Port Authority, not all members, have been found to be questionable and I think that was putting it lightly,” said Davis during that session, Horton chiming-in that former board members were fortunate to avoid jail time.
In a released statement, former SOPA Director Jason Kester said no Port Authority funds were used in these transaction, this money rather coming through the Joint Economic Development Initative of Southern Ohio.
“I’ve discussed the football tickets and alcohol purchase with the Auditor’s office legal counsel, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the State Ethics Commission legal office, as well as my own attorney and at no time was jail time implicated or discussed,” Kester’s statement reads.
Davis said the time had come to move past this issue due to both the check and changes in the board’s procedures.
“We have great faith in what the Port Authority is doing right now,” Davis said. “They have a lot of projects that are in the works.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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