No one tampered or altered an audit report of Leetsdale’s finances issued in January, according to a private investigator hired by the borough.
Following possible concerns that borough officials altered Ambridge-based auditor Mark Turnley’s report, solicitor Richard Start said he hired in February Corporate Security and Investigators Inc. of Monaca to investigate whether the 14-page document was changed.
The findings of the report were released at Leetsdale’s March council meeting.
While nobody on council or within the borough staff tampered with the audit, investigator Louis Gentile found that font and punctuation changes were made to a version sent by Judy Fulton McGurk to members of the Citizens for Leetsdale group.
Investigators said the changes — none of which altered the content of the report — occurred after Fulton McGurk scanned the audit into her personal computer, according to the investigator’s report.
Initially, Fulton McGurk said she thought borough officials might have changed the format, according to an email sent to Turnley on Feb. 3.
Start said he became aware of the situation following a Feb. 3 email from Turnley describing the differences in the audits. Start became concerned so he hired a private investigator to determine if someone altered the audit.
The investigator met with Fulton McGurk and her husband, Joe McGurk, in early February and later determined that the McGurk’s scanner and computer could have an optical character recognition, or OCR, program installed, which could have altered the look of the document from its original display.
Often, when a document is scanned to a computer changes might occur as a result of the scanner trying to “read” the document.
Fulton McGurk’s husband, Joe McGurk is seeking a seat on Leetsdale council. Both of the McGurks are members of Citizens for Leetsdale, a grassroots group initiated in 2010 following residents’ complaints of misused money and other alleged wrongdoing directed toward many of Leetsdale’s current council members.
Council member Mike Bajsec said he was “really angry” about initially being considered to have possibly tampered with the document. He added that he planned on seeking legal counsel.
But Fulton McGurk said she “wasn’t blaming anybody” for the document’s differing format.
“I was looking for clarification,” she said.
Following residents’ questions in August regarding items such as borough credit card spending and inventory practices, Turnley and his wife, Kimberly, were directed to conduct an audit in the fall.
Results of the 14-page report auditing the municipality’s last five years were released in January and showed “significant deficiencies” among borough operations, including use of 12 Citizens Bank credit cards offering a more than $20,000 spending limit.