BELLEFONTAINE – The former executive director of a defunct multi-county agency was indicted by a Logan County grand jury this week.
Denise L. Birt, 60, of 700 Lick Run Road, West Union, was indicted Wednesday on third degree felony charges of securing writings by deception, theft, falsification, a fourth degree felony charge of grand theft and a first degree misdemeanor charge of tampering with evidence.
Logan County Prosecutor William T. Goslee told the Daily Citizen Friday that the charges stem from conduct while Birt was the director of the Tri-County Community Action Council dating as far back as January 2004 through March 31, 2014.
The CAC’s board of directors voted to terminate Birt in September 2014 after she was placed on administrative leave in the spring of that year. This action followed an audit by the Ohio Development Services Agency, which found Birt had been consistently overpaid through its grant to the organization during her time on the job.
A resolution about the termination states the board “has determined that she failed to satisfactorily perform her job duties and mismanaged the agency’s funds and operations and provided false and inaccurate information to the Board of Directors and state agencies and authorized the payment of compensation to herself with the board’s approval.”
On Friday, Birt pleaded not guilty to the charges and was placed on a personal recognizance bond. She is scheduled to appear in court again on Aug. 17 for a scheduling conference.
Agency chair reacts
Al Evans, of Urbana, chairman of the still extant Tri-County Community Action Council board, said the indictment of Birt has been “a long time coming.”
“I imagine a lot of people involved wondered what was happening. These things take a long time. I can tell you the board and Prosecutor Goslee never gave up. We finally got to where we could indict her,” he said.
Evans was among those who testified before the grand jury prior to the indictment. The board assisted in the investigation that has been underway since Birt was removed from office in 2014. The state auditor, state attorney general, Logan County prosecutor and the federal Transportation Department investigated Birt’s activities.
There are five board members, all of whom sat on the board when Birt held the organization’s directorship.
“We were around when things happened,” Evans said. “We have all the records stored. That’s how we helped. We (the investigating agencies) all worked together. The board has been working with the prosecutor and attorneys to try to bring this thing to a conclusion and bring her to justice.”
The board may meet as early as next week with attorneys to figure out next steps. The Tri-County CAC still holds massive debts incurred under Birt’s leadership. Board members hope to be able to repay at least some of them if court proceedings lead to money becoming available.
“We have no assets,” Evans said. “We signed property over so it could be dealt with by lawyers. The goal is to try to recover any money we can to satisfy debts that we have.”
He added that Birt owes the organization some $77,000 that was overpaid to her, in addition to what she owes federal and state grant-makers and local vendors.
“There’s not going to be enough money out there to collect. That’s the bad thing about all this. Our goal has always been to try to take care of the businesses, but it doesn’t look very good. There will be some vendors that don’t get paid,” Evans said.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.
Patricia Ann Speelman can be reached at 937-538-4824.