Representatives from GBQ Consulting -- an independent consulting firm investigating Grove City's unpaid federal payroll taxes -- spoke to city council Jan. 18.

Representatives from GBQ Consulting -- an independent consulting firm investigating Grove City's unpaid federal payroll taxes -- spoke to city council Jan. 18.

"What experience do you guys have administering audits?" council president Ted Berry asked.

Rebekah Smith, GBQ's director of financial advisory services, said the firm has performed similar investigations, but has not audited a governmental body.

"We have incredibly deep talent in terms of payroll taxes and state taxes, as well as accounting investigations," Smith said.

"We've definitely worked with other similar agencies that have had similar types of issues in terms of accounting irregularities."

GBQ's experience is "relevant to this situation," she said.

GBQ isn't the only outside organization with its eyes on Grove City's books. Also combing through the records are the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and a special unit from the state auditor's office.

State auditor Dave Yost on Jan. 18 announced his office would join the investigation at the request of Grove City police chief Joseph Wise.

The Internal Revenue Service last month told the city it owed about $685,905 in unpaid payroll withholding taxes.

An initial investigation identified more unpaid quarterly tax returns totaling about $370,000.

Wise on Jan. 13 said investigators uncovered evidence of a theft within the Grove City finance department; no charges have been filed as of press time.

Grove City is paying GBQ up to $20,000 to investigate causes behind the tax errors.

City law director Stephen Smith Jr. said he chose GBQ Consulting to perform the independent investigation based on recommendations from his colleagues at local law firm Schottenstein Zox & Dunn.

"I sent an e-mail around to my coworkers here at the firm and got several recommendations," he said. "I interviewed over the phone several different firms, and at the end of the day (GBQ) seemed like the most able to perform the work the city was looking for."

GBQ will review financial records as well as city policies and procedures.

"We've tried to give them as much flexibility as we can," Smith said.

Initially, Smith had discussed a two-week time frame for the review, but there's no deadline for its completion, he said.

"A lot of that is going to depend on what they find."

On Dec. 10, the city placed Jackie Kincade, 61, payroll specialist, on paid leave. She submitted her retirement effective Jan. 7 and has denied any wrongdoing.

Grove City has advertised a new payroll specialist vacancy, city administrator Phil Honsey said.

Meanwhile, part-time finance department employee Deb Reeves has taken over payroll and tax filings, finance director Mike Turner said.