Evansville City Council is asking for ECHO Housing to show them the money. City leaders want proof taxpayer dollars haven’t been misused at the non-profit.
At the same time, Evansville Police are now investigating the former director, Stephanie TenBarge, for allegedly spending the agency’s money on her own property taxes.
Government works with checks and balances. One group answers to another and no one person runs the show, but on the top floor of the Evansville Civic Center, answers are all some look for.
“We really don’t know what’s going on,” says Councilman Jonathan Weaver.
ECHO is separate from the administration but is intimately connected with its finances.
Weaver feels he can no longer trust the housing corporation with taxpayer money unless they show their books are clean. Last week, TenBarge left the agency just days after City Council approved $400,000 for ECHO for various projects.
“We should have known there was an investigation, and this was going on, that she resigned or was fired or whatever happened,” Weaver says, frustrated with the situation.
Weaver and other council members are considering withholding that money until ECHO can show no other money has been misused. ECHO won’t have control of the money until at least August. Right now, it’s just set aside.
“We don’t feel, at this point, they’re worthy of getting that money,” Weaver says.
Evansville Police believe society is the victim and fraud investigators now have the case.
EPD officer Eric Krogman has since resigned from the ECHO board after learning about the allegations in late February. According to Sgt. Jason Cullum, Krogman told his supervisor about the allegations he heard from another board member and encouraged ECHO to open an investigation.
Cullum says the ECHO board of directors has refused to open their own case with EPD, and so far, aren’t cooperating with the ongoing case opened on behalf of the public.
The focus, Cullum says, isn’t currently on any other board member. “The target of this investigation really is Stephanie TenBarge,” says Cullum.
Most government works with one group answering to another. It’s clear, at least some city leaders feel, there’s a whole lot of checks without any balance.
(This story was originally published March 22, 2018)