Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Florence hires auditor who found alleged embezzlement

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

FLORENCE - It was Linda Chapman who first uncovered an alleged embezzling scheme by former Florence Finance Director Ron Epling. It will now be Chapman's job to put the city's finances back in order.

Chapman, a supervisor for Rankin, Rankin and Co., has been hired for the job Epling held from 1987-2002. Her first day will be March 10.

Epling is in the Boone County jail, indicted on 35 counts of theft.

He is accused of stealing nearly $3 million over the last eight years. The total is likely to rise as the investigation continues.

Mayor Diane Whalen said it was Chapman who began raising questions during last year's audit. She said Chapman supervised the 2001 audit, but did more hands-on work in 2002.

"For once, something was easy," said Whalen. "We approached her about the job, asked her if she was interested, talked with her about it, and she took it. We could not have found a better-qualified candidate."

Chapman, 39, of Green Township, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Chapman is a certified public accountant in Kentucky and Ohio. A University of Cincinnati graduate, she has been with Rankin, Rankin and Co. for nine years. She was a supervising senior auditor at Hart and Gersbach for eight years before that.

Hart and Gersbach president Tom Hart, who hired Chapman out of college, was not surprised when he heard she was the one who found the financial problems in Florence.

"There's a reconciliation process for every type of account, and she was good at doing the procedures and following the processes."

Fort Wright City Administrator Larry Klein has worked with Chapman for the last five years on Fort Wright audits.

"I was immediately jealous when I found out she was going to Florence and wouldn't be doing our audits anymore. She's that good," said Klein.

"She knows municipal finances inside and out and knows how a financial department should be run. That'll be her biggest asset to Florence."

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