When former Bexley Mayor David Madison paid back $981.80 in cell phone charges in February, he believed there would be no further discussion about the city cell phone that he once gave to his wife.

When former Bexley Mayor David Madison paid back $981.80 in cell phone charges in February, he believed there would be no further discussion about the city cell phone that he once gave to his wife.

But the issue resurfaced Sept. 18, when Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor released an audit of Bexley along with a special finding for recovery clause that demanded Madison repay an estimated $981.80 in charges incurred while his wife, Cheryl, used the phone in 2005 and 2006.

In that document, Taylor stated the monies were "illegally expended" and should be paid back in full to the city's general fund.

Also cited in the clause is Taylor's obligation to inform the Ohio attorney general's office of any unlawful use of taxpayers' dollars -- a stipulation of the Ohio Revised Code regarding municipality audits.

A representative from the Ohio attorney general's office said if a city official continues to delay payment and the county prosecutor turns down the case, the issue could make its way to the attorney general, which isn't expected in this case.

The audit stated that Madison had been issued three city-owned phones, one of which was solely used by his wife. Madison said last week that he kept one phone with him, one phone in his car and the third was used by his wife. He said she needed to be in contact with him to relay information.

Madison also said he repaid the money earlier this year -- while the audit was still being processed -- after he was contacted by Bexley service director Bill Harvey.

"I wasn't going to argue with them, so I paid it back immediately," Madison said last week. "To this day, I haven't done anything wrong. I just wanted to get the whole thing over with."

On June 30, Mark Grube of Julian and Grube Inc., an independent public accounting firm that prepared the 2005-06 Bexley audit for the state auditor, sent a letter to Bexley Mayor John Brennan and members of city council, recommending the city comply with its cellular phone policy that city-owned phones should not be used for personal business.

When his firm completed the audit, Grube said he turned over all its findings to the state auditor's office, which then issued the finding of recovery statement.

In the findings, Grube said paperwork from Verizon Wireless showed the bill in 2005 as approximately $536 and the 2006 bill as approximately $446, adding up to the $981.80 that Madison repaid the city in February.

But well before the 2005-06 audit was released, former city attorney Jim Gross sent a letter to Grube about a proposed finding of recovery in the amount of $2,453 -- the estimated charges for the phone since it was issued in 2000, the accountant said.

Brennan, City Auditor Larry Heiser and Madison were all sent copies, according to the letter dated Dec. 27, 2007.

In the letter, Gross said Madison should not have to pay back the money because the issuance of the phone did not violate any state law, was authorized by the city auditor and council, and was justified because Madison's wife had to communicate for him while he was hospitalized with health problems.

"My legal view was that there was nothing illegal," Gross said last week.

Gross said Bexley had gone through three city auditors as well as multiple audits during the period Madison had the phones and no legal issues had been raised.

Heiser, who entered office in January 2006, said he, as well as previous city auditors, were aware Madison had three city phones, but didn't question the use of them until members of the administration looked into city-owned cell phones at the end of November 2006.

"People knew that he had three phones, but the way Mayor Madison used to operate no one really questioned it," Heiser said.

He said that since then, the city administration has cut down on the use of city-owned phones.

Madison said he adhered to the city's policy of chipping in $5 a month for each cell phone line. Madison paid $15 per month in cell phone charges to the city.

Heiser said the $5 policy was in place when he came into office and has since been changed.

Madison said he immediately returned the phone used by his wife to the city after Heiser said the use was deemed improper.

According to e-mails between Verizon Wireless and Bexley officials, the city's network-information systems manager, Russ Halsey, requested service to be terminated to Madison's third cell phone on May 4, 2007 -- a few weeks after Heiser discussed the issue with council members in an executive session, Heiser said.

Heiser said that the cell phone bills between 2000 and 2004 -- estimated at about $1,500 -- were discarded, which is the reason the former mayor has not been asked to repay the full $2,453.

The money that Madison paid back was only for the current audit period, Grube said.

He said that in many cases where public money is misspent, the state asks for restitution.