10 Investigates: State Has Not Garnished Wages for People Who Owe Taxpayers

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UPDATED: Monday February 24, 2014 11:47 PM

People who have cheated, embezzled, squandered or mismanaged Ohio tax dollars often owe debts for years without facing aggressive collection efforts, 10 Investigates has found.       

Ohio's Auditor of State keeps a list of people who owe taxpayers, called the "findings for recovery" database.

The station analyzed the database and focused on Central Ohio.

10 Investigates found $14 million owed by debtors who live in Central Ohio or were involved in improper use of public money in the area.

The database shows former Mechanicsburg Clerk Susan Cantrell owes taxpayers $81,000 for embezzling from the village in 2004.

Cantrell went to prison and was released last spring, according to the Champaign County Clerk. Cantrell has paid court costs, but still owes the full amount for restitution, the clerk said.

Cantrell did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

Ed Dudley, Sr., of Gahanna owes at least $390,000 for mishandling charter school funds, according to records and statements from the Auditor of State.

Dudley drives a GMC Denali and lives in a spacious home that overlooks Big Walnut Creek.

Dudley declined to answer questions, but his attorney said by email that Dudley owes the money "jointly and severally." That means other people also owe for the same debt. The attorney claims Dudley is "secondarily liable" and the state should pursue recovery from other debtors before him.     

10 Investigates has found the state, has in the past, been reluctant to begin collections lawsuits against debtors who owe Ohio taxpayers.

In several cases, despite the debtors owing money for several years, state attorneys had not sought to collect money from paychecks in a process called garnishments.

The Attorney General can begin the process to garnish wages following a finding for recovery and when local officials have either failed or declined to do it themselves.

"We are the collector of last resort," said Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney.  

Tierney said that, under the Mike DeWine Administration, the office has become more aggressive in collecting public debts.  DeWine has made changes that will force people to either pay or get their wages garnished, Tierney said.

"We are just starting to see more of those cases get to that stage," he said. "We are just starting to see the results of these changes."

After 10 Investigates began working on this story, the Attorney General began a collection action in court against Ed Dudley. And more are likely to follow, Tierney said.

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