The Prince George's County treasure has been suspended from his job for alledgely mismanaging county funds.
Robert H. Oechler, 55, the treasurer, was suspended Monday by county officials upset at learning that millions of dollars in county general funds had been placed in bank accounts that paid no interest to the county.
The money would have earned $850,000 for the county had it earned interest, according to officials.
An attorney for Oechsler, Robert Manzi, said the accusation was "incorrect" and that Oechsler was being used as a scapegoat. Manzi said that the county finance officer, who suspended Oechsler, had overestimated the potential earnings.
The county is moving formally to dismiss the treasurer. Suspension is the first step in the process.
The average daily bank balance of general funds is $1.7 million, according to county officials.
In addition, the county is also charging that Oechsler, failed to place in interest-bearing accounts $160,000 in funds allocated to the county by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Manzi said the county incorrectly included both collected and uncollected funds when determining that $850,000 could have been saved.
He said the bank that handles the county's account conducted an audit shortly after the issue was brought to light in the Prince Georges Journal, a weekly newspaper, and found that the savings would have been only about $1,000.
Manzi said the county has a general fund account that has an average daily balance of $1.7 million, which includes both collected funds. He said the uncollected funds are checks that have not cleared the bank. He said those funds, which are indicated on the bank balance at the end of the day, would not collect interest until they cleared.
As a result, he said there is a discrepancy between the county's perception of profits and what the profits actually are.
Additionally, he said the other charge concerning the $160,000 in uninvested funds is inaccurate because the treasurer said he did not know that he could invest federal funds that were not already in the county's general fund.
The attorney said, however, that Oechsler did invest the funds in February after the county accounting department developed a form to transfer the money.
The move to dismiss Oechsler, who has been the county treasurer since July 1, 1971, was made suddenly on Monday when he received a hand-carried note from county finance director, telling him that the director proposed to terminate his employment by July 20 and that he should move his belongings from the office immediately because he was relieved of his responsibility.
The space was immediately filled by Richard Bradley, the county's accounting officer.
County executive spokesman John Lally said yesterday that Oechsler was suspended and placed on administrative leave with pay.
Lally, who said the action could lead to dismissal, said the treasurer had five days to respond to the charges. One county finance official said the agency plans to hire a consultant to correct deficiencies in the financial management system.
The state of Maryland had invested millions of dollars in non-interest bearing accounts until three years ago when the practice ceased following reports in the Washington Post.
On the state level, as in Prince George's County, the bank imposed no service charges on the county, if the county kept a minimum balance in its accounts. The county uses Suburban Trust bank for its major accounts.