In a press release Tuesday, Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher writes that Mary Jo Hawkins was appointed as interim clerk “effective Tuesday, February 11 at 4:00 p.m.” Thatcher does not mention Clerk Stephanie Hardman, who Hawkins is replacing.
Hardman’s name has been replaced with Hawkins’s on the court website.
Mount Vernon City Safety-Services Director Rick Dzik said Wednesday that employee matters are handled by the judge. He said he believes Hardman “could have either resigned or (was) removed.”
City Law Director Rob Broeren was unavailable for comment. In the press release, Thatcher said he would have no further comment on the matter.
Hardman’s personnel file has been requested by the News.
In the release, Thatcher states Hawkins “brings to the position the experience and trust the court is desirous of during the present investigation.”
Hawkins formerly served as Knox County Clerk of Courts, retiring last year. Thatcher did not state how long the interim will be.
The clerk’s office has been under investigation by the Ohio Auditor of State since at least February of last year after allegations that an employee was stealing from the office were brought forward in December 2018. Thatcher reported the allegations to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
An annual audit of the city, completed by private firm Wilson, Shannon & Snow, found that $7,749.05 was missing. The funds were related to money in 2018 which had been taken in by the court and recorded in the court’s accounting system, but was not deposited with a local bank used by the court.
In a Nov. 12 story of the News, Thatcher said he had not determined who the person responsible for the missing money might be.
The court has since adopted new protocols regarding cash deposits. The new policy requires deposits to be made twice daily, and multiple clerks are required to reconcile the deposit amount. According to the policy, one clerk will issue a receipt for the amount in the bank deposit before it leaves the clerk’s office; another clerk takes the deposit to the bank and, upon returning, reconciles the amounts with a receipt of deposit from the bank.
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