A special investigation by the State Auditor’s Office finds a tangled mess of interaction between the Appanoose County Conservation Department and the Appanoose Conservation Foundation.

Auditor Mary Mosiman says the report found operation didn’t follow the proper guidelines. “The foundation was established to support the department’s efforts. Instead, the department appears to be financially supporting the efforts administered by the foundation,” Mosiman explains. She says the found nearly $74,000 that was improperly spent.

“Various employee benefit payouts to the former Appanoose County Conservation Department director, such as vacation payout and termination payouts,” according to Mosiman. “We also had concerns regarding commingling of transactions involving property between the department and the foundation as well as things like rent collections on one of the county properties that went to the foundation instead of to the county.”

Mosiman says the issues arose during the tenure of former Conservation Department director Mark Hoffman. The audit found Hoffman maintained a significant role in the foundation after being fired by the county. She says land issues were a big part of the concerns — and cites the sale of one piece of land as an example.

Mosiman says in one case the county sold land to the foundation and the document of the sale amount was zero, but within a week the land was sold by the foundation for $280,000. Mosiman says relatives of Hoffman were allowed to live on county property without paying rent during and after the time they worked for the county. The report finds other nepotism issues in payments made to the relatives of Hoffman by the foundation. Mosiman says Appanoose County leaders are working to address the concerns raised in the report and says it will take some to work to turn things around.

“The lines have been blurred here for several year between the foundation and the county department. That’s what this report details — all the various ways in which that commingling takes place,” Mosiman says. Mosiman says the report has been turned over to the Appanoose County Attorney Attorney General’s Office, and the Division of Criminal Investigation for their review to determine if there are any criminal charges.

Here’s the investigation report: Appanoose-County-Investigation-PDF