There’s no arguing that Crystal Balo took advantage of the system. She kept her ex-husband and her younger brother on Allen County’s health insurance plan longer than they were eligible, and Allen County Common Pleas Judge Richard Warren last week found her guilty.
That makes sense to us. Where we get lost, however, is in Allen County Commissioner Sam Bassitt’s attempt at explaining why oversight failed.
Following the trial, which ended Wednesday with Warren’s verdict, Bassitt told The Lima News he expects changes in the county’s oversight of the insurance program. That’s great news, as they clearly are needed. But Bassitt went on to say that budget cuts have left the county with fewer employees and more work, so it is harder to monitor everything.
That would make sense as it pertains to Balo except those cuts didn’t come until the end of the time Balo was accused of deceiving the county. At the time, the county had the staff to catch this, but still missed it. That falls on the three commissioners and county Administrator Becky Saine.
Balo administered the county’s health insurance program while she worked in the commissioners’ office, from Sept. 16, 2002, to Feb. 15, 2006. She left to work in the Allen County Auditor’s Office, from which she was fired when her theft was discovered.
Balo’s ex-husband, Steven, had $5,727 in medical claims billed to her health insurance and her brother, Richard Roby, had $2,974 in claims, according to testimony from Balo’s trial. Balo had custody of her brother, but after his 19th birthday he became ineligible for health insurance under her plan.
Warren found Balo guilty of grand theft by deception, a fourth-degree felony. He will sentence her June 16. Warren said Balo had a greater obligation to take her ex-husband and brother off her insurance plan since she had managed the plan for several years.
Warren has a point. But the county leadership doesn’t deserve to be let off the hook so easily. This happened under the watch of Bassitt, Saine and Commissioners Dan Reiff and Greg Sneary.
Bassitt blames the lack of oversight on fewer county employees having to do more work, made necessary by budget cuts. But prosecutors say the crime occurred between January 2004 and September 2009. Allen County government didn’t start making cuts until the commissioners took seriously the weakening economy — toward the middle of 2009.
Balo broke the law. But the oversight that should have been there wasn’t.