- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

DANVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas auditors say a couple who worked for Yell County Emergency Medical Services received more than $680,000 in undocumented or unauthorized payments.

The report released Thursday by the Arkansas Legislative Audit says director Sidney Ward was overpaid nearly $529,000 from January 2010 to August 2015. His wife, bookkeeper Donna Ward, received nearly $120,000.

The report says more than $16,000 of the salary that Donna Ward received was not reported to the IRS, and that her dependents also improperly received nearly $32,000 worth of health insurance premiums.

State auditors say that limited internal controls and an unquestioning board of directors allowed the Wards to pay themselves far more than the board had intended.

State auditors forwarded their report to the IRS and 15th Judicial Circuit Prosecuting Attorney Tom Tatum.

Board chairman Jerry Woods says the board is fully cooperating with Tatum. No money has been recovered yet.

Tatum didn’t respond to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s (https://bit.ly/1Kudx87 ) request for comment Thursday.

Woods says the board began looking to the unit’s finances in July after employees had complained that they were not receiving health insurance payments or matching retirement contributions. The Wards were suspended in August and terminated in October.

“We were very surprised. This was an individual that I called my friend for 25 years,” Woods said. “He was well known in the community. There were people who served on my boards who had literally known him since they were small children.”

Woods says that changes have been implemented to prevent further wrongdoing, including requiring multiple signatures for disbursements, reviewing every transaction at board meetings and implementing an independent fiscal review.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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