Columbus – Auditor of State Keith Faber’s Office released the 2020 City of Mount Vernon (Knox County) financial audit. The audit included a finding for recovery against former Municipal Clerk of Court Stephanie Hardman, who pled guilty to Theft in Office and Tampering with Record charges based on the special audit, investigation and prosecution by the Special Investigations Unit.
“Last year our Special Investigations Unit identified over $2 million in findings related to the abuse of tax dollars,” said Auditor Faber. “We expect our public servants to be trustworthy and responsible, not thieves, and we will make sure every dollar is accounted for.”
As the Municipal Clerk of Court, Hardman was responsible for the overall retention of court documents, collecting and disbursing monies received by the Municipal Clerk of Court’s Office, completing deposit slips, and preparing court dockets and associated entries. Ms. Hardman had sole access and authority in completing the month end reconciliations and transferring funds online via the Municipal Clerk of Court’s online bank accounts.
During calendar year 2018, auditors compared CMI software batch reports to the Municipal Clerk of Court’s Bail Bond account and Criminal account bank statements and deposits to ensure the payments were properly deposited, and identified a total cash shortage of $10,621. In some instances, a transfer of funds was made between the Bail Bond account and Criminal account in an attempt to cover the shortage of funds.
On October 7, 2021, Ms. Hardman pled guilty in Knox County Common Pleas Court to one count of Theft in Office, a felony of the 4th degree, and one count of Tampering with Records, a felony of the 4th degree. On November 4, 2021, the Honorable Judge Richard Wetzel sentenced Ms. Hardman to 150 days in the Knox County Jail and two years of community control. Ms. Hardman was ordered to pay $7,476.50 in negotiated restitution.
A finding for recovery was issued against Stephanie Hardman and her bonding company, Old Republic Surety Company, jointly and severally, in the amount of $10,621, in favor of the City of Mount Vernon Clerk of Court’s Municipal Court fund. On November 10, 2021, a negotiated restitution payment of $7,476 was issued to the Mount Vernon Clerk of Court’s Office by the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. Therefore, this is considered a partial repayment of the finding, and a balance of $3,145 remains unpaid.