x

WNEP.com | News, Weather & Sports from WNEP-TV — Proud to Serve Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania

Borough Officials Question Bounced Checks, Transfer of Sewer Funds

WYOMING, Pa. — The mayor of a community in Luzerne County wants an outside audit. He has paperwork showing someone in Wyoming borough’s administrati...

WYOMING, Pa. -- The mayor of a community in Luzerne County wants an outside audit. He has paperwork showing someone in Wyoming borough's administration wrote borough checks that bounced and transferred money from its sewer fees to its general fund in an apparent violation of borough rules.

In Wyoming and most other communities, money raised by sewer fees can only be used to manage the sewer system.

Records appear to show someone in the borough transferred $130,000 in sewer fees to its general fund over a five-month period.

For many in Wyoming, a crisis of confidence began in January. State police investigators raided the office of Borough Manager Tamra Smith.

According to a search warrant, they were looking for "evidence of theft, forgery, and tampering with records," of non-borough agencies, including the library and volunteer fire department.

Council members voted not to suspend Smith during the criminal investigation.

Newly elected Mayor Joseph Dominick and council member Mike Baloga say they've lost even more confidence in Smith and council leadership after the two borough officials took a look at the borough's bills.

"Basically, this shows there's mismanagement at a high level," said Mayor Dominick.

In October, records show someone in the borough transferred $50,000 from the sewer fund to the general fund.

In February, someone transferred another $80,000 in sewer fees to the general fund.

According to the borough charter, "all sanitary sewage collection and treatment charges shall be used solely for the sewer system's operation, maintenance, and debt service requirements."

"I think we need to find out exactly who made these decisions and who is aware of this," the mayor said.

"The only thing I can think of is they didn't want anyone to know how bad shape the borough was in financially," said council member Mike Baloga.

During the time of the money transfer, the borough also bounced at least two checks.

Records do not show who transferred the sewer fees. We tried to speak with borough council president Steve Nelewajko who told us to talk to the borough manager.

We went to Borough Manager Tamra Smith's office on two occasions and no one answered her door.

During one of our checks, our cameras caught her and a friend driving away from her office.

Mayor Dominick says people in the borough need to know why someone transferred the sewer fees to the general fund and why checks from the borough bounced.

According to state law, the borough council could fire, fine, or suspend the person found responsible for violating the rules and transferring money from the sewer fund into the general fund.

Mayor Dominick says the sewer fund was created in 2012 to replace aging sewer lines running beneath the community's main streets, not to pay borough bills.