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New law means public officials could face $500 civil penalty for disregarding requirements

Courts would have power to impose penalties
State Board of Accounts.JPG
Posted at 2:40 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 14:53:17-04

INDIANAPOLI S — The state is getting some more teeth in holding public officials accountable who mishandle taxpayer money or fail to keep their financial books in order.

A new law takes effect July 1 that would allow a court to impose up to $500 per day in civil penalties against a public official who continues to disregard certain requirements.

The law is an alternative to a public official forfeiting their office and would apply if a public official continues to violate their obligations with respect to an audit, examination or other interaction with the Indiana State Board of Accounts, the state agency that audits local government such as schools, cities, towns, counties and libraries.

SBOA State Examiner Paul Joyce said the law is needed to help them get government units and their officers to submit their annual financial reports and conflict of interest disclosure statements in a timely fashion.

“It also gives the SBOA something substantial to hold against fiscal officers that aren’t actually public officials,” Joyce said. “For example, fiscal officers of charter schools or treasurers at school corporations that don’t submit documents timely.”

The $500 per day is a personal obligation, meaning the public officials and non-profit officers who receive public funds would have to pay it out of their own pocket.

“I do think this will be an effective tool in getting required documents more timely,” Joyce said.

Joyce said the law is still dependent on a court issuing a fine.

“It isn’t something that the SBOA would impose and it isn’t an automatic fine,” Joyce said.

Click here to read the bill.