Beaver County Treasurer Connie Javens went down to a local bank, withdrew $275,000 from a county account without authorization, and then made no record of her transaction in the county’s financial systems, according to several county officials. Officials say Javens’ unilateral withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars appears to be in direct violation of state laws requiring the Board of Commissioners and County Controller to approve all distributions of public funds.
Beaver County Controller David Rossi told the Beaver Countian his office discovered a withdrawal from Citizens Bank in Beaver while reviewing newly received bank statements from the county’s various accounts.
“We saw a $275,000 withdrawal from October 14th that we didn’t sign off on, we didn’t authorize any transfer of funds from,” said Rossi. “I talked to the Commissioners, I talked to [Beaver County Chief of Staff] Vince LaValle, and [Treasurer’s Office First Deputy] Charles Gibbons, they all said they didn’t know about the money being withdrawn. That’s when I went down to the bank personally to see what happened […] They said Connie [Javens] came down to the bank to take out the money, they showed me a withdrawal slip for $275,000 that had just Connie’s signature on it, she signed it alone. They also showed me a cashier’s check made out to Friendship Ridge in the same amount.”
The Controller’s Office, not the Treasurer’s Office, is responsible for printing the county’s check runs.
“In order for funds to leave the county, the County Commissioners and Controller have to sign off for the funds to be released, have to sign all of the checks or wire transfer forms” said Controller Rossi. “Money can not legally be released without these signatures on each transaction. In this case, neither the Commissioners or the Controller signed for the release of the funds.”
According to Rossi, the money that Javens withdrew was from a county bank account used when Friendship Ridge was still owned by the public. The account saw several deposits after the sale of the facility for various Medicare reimbursements. According to the sales agreement between the Board of Commissioners and Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services (the company that purchased the nursing home), as the facility was transferring hands certain reimbursements would belong to Comprehensive and in turn Comprehensive would be responsible for certain expenses.
For the past several months, Controller Rossi’s Office and attorneys for the Board of Commissioners have been investigating the possibility that Comprehensive still owes the county hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of the facility. Rossi said he would not have authorized the release of the funds to Friendship Ridge until after that review was completed. Friendship Ridge was notified the county was investigating possible discrepancies in payments.
“No money should have gone anywhere until we figured out what is owed […] The money Connie [Javens] withdrew was a round figure, $275,000.00, that number doesn’t match any deposits or invoices, there is still $2,000 some odd random dollars left in that account” said Controller Rossi. “She didn’t have the legal authority to do what she did.”
Controller Rossi said that Treasurer Javens did not record the hefty withdrawal with the county. “There was no record made of the withdrawal in the county’s financial records system. There was no record of it anywhere.”
Rossi said his office has since identified other similar withdrawals, although for smaller amounts, that came out of the county’s bank accounts. “My office will be looking into these incidents further,” he said.
Beaver County Solicitor Bernie Rabik told the Beaver Countian that he was made aware of the issue and is scheduling a meeting with the Board of Commissioners, Treasurer Javens, and Controller Rossi, to discuss the matter.
Officials say the cashier’s check obtained from Citizens Bank by Javens using the withdrawn funds was cashed by the new private owners of Friendship Ridge.
Treasurer Connie Javens’ dealings with Friendship Ridge and its new owners have been the repeated subject of public controversy, with Commissioner Joe Spanik previously speaking out about the lucrative contracts several of her family members garnered from the facility. Beaver County Chief Assessor Mike Kohlman has previously told the Beaver Countian that Javens personally walked the new owners of Friendship Ridge down to the County’s Assessment Office after their close of the sale, helping them start the process of having a reassessment done to lower their property taxes — even though it is not one of the duties of her office.
Records maintained by the Beaver County Bureau of Elections show that Javens reported receiving a campaign contribution from Friendship Ridge in the amount of $250 during the general election cycle. Although she failed to properly report the date the donation had been made as required, records appear to show she may have received it sometime in October.
Beaver County Treasurer Connie Javens did not return a message left by the Beaver Countian seeking comment for this story.