Auditor’s reports find billing issues in Sebring, Smith Township

Could former Sebring Fire Chief James Cannell be on the hook for more than $111,000?

According to a just-released report from the Ohio Auditor of State, he is.

Although Cannell, who now is a village councilman, never returned our calls, he’s accused of failing to bill neighboring Smith Township for nearly 200 runs for the fire department between 2008 and 2015.

When investigators spoke with Cannell about it in 2016, he told them that he decided which calls he would charge the township for — saying he never billed for motor vehicle accidents or other calls he described with an expletive.

READ: Cannell’s response during investigation

The report claims Cannell admitted destroying the run sheets for those unbilled calls, saying it was solely his discretion.

In a separate report, auditors claim Smith Township actually overpaid for calls that were billed by more than $48,000 — stating trustees and their clerk should repay those funds.

As part of the state’s report, trustees argue that auditors should have considered the contract between both communities and that officials were “purely satisfied” with the system as it is, calling it “mutually beneficial.”

“This appears to be a billing dispute between Smith Township and the Village of Sebring,” said Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains. 

Gains said he has asked the Ohio Attorney General to collect the money owed as a civil action.

“The Attorney General will be in the best position to sort that out, make a determination as to what findings should actually be collected, because nobody pocketed money, according to the audit,” he said. 

At this point, no one will say what amount — if any — Cannell will ultimately have to repay.

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