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OH: Clerk Used $7,115 In Pike County Court Cash As Personal ATM

Those who have paid court fees to the Pike County Court will have a sense of unease. The check they wrote may not have been deposited into the Court’s account. It may have become a Court employee’s personal ATM.

Chief Deputy Clerk, Darla Smith, handled all garnishment and sheriff foreclosure checks for Pike County. She and two other employees were responsible for making deposits to the Court’s bank account. But she was the only one who handled the reconciliation of the Court’s bank account.

No one reviewed her work.

According to the Ohio Auditor’s office, John Williams, Pike County Clerk of Courts, placed Ms. Smith on administrative leave effective December 30, 2013 after irregularities in Court receipts and deposits came to light, and notified the Auditor’s office.

The Auditor’s office has issued a “findings for recovery.” From July 1, 2012 through December 30, 2013 money went missing. After calculating the total, and costs incurred to the county by her fraud, Ms. Smith owes the county $7,380.

Ohio Auditor David Yost commented in the press release accompanying the audit, “Unchecked authority combined with opportunity can often spell disaster.” Noting, “The Pike County Clerk of Courts office should take steps to ensure that no one has this kind free reign again.”

According to the Auditor’s report, there were 22 receipts totaling $3,196 for cash received and 12 receipts totaling $1,855 for checks received that were not deposited into the Court’s bank account.

The fact that the money for these 34 receipts had not been deposited was concealed by marking them as “Deposits in Transit” in bank account reconciliations. It accounted to a total of $5,051.

On top of this, there were three garnishment checks totaling $1,470 that were deposited but not recorded. The Auditor’s report “concluded the checks were substituted for cash receipts collected and recorded but not deposited because the daily receipts recorded and deposited agreed in total but did not agree by tender type.”

The Auditor’s report found other similar fraud to hide the unaccounted money. In all the money unaccounted for totaled $7,115. The Auditor also included $265 in the findings for recovery for public money illegal spent, bringing the total findings for recovery to $7,380.

The case has now been referred to the Pike County Prosecutor.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Stephanie Kreuz

Stephanie is the editor of Watchdog Wire - Ohio. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College. You can contact her at Ohio@WatchdogWire.com for story ideas and ways to get involved with citizen journalism in the state of Ohio.

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Categories: Government Transparency, Must Read, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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