MOUNT VERNON — Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher Wednesday confirmed that he terminated the employment of court clerk Stephanie Hardman.
Thatcher said that Hardman’s employment was terminated Tuesday evening, but declined further comment on the matter. Per a News public records request, Thatcher said there is no document of Hardman’s being let go; Hardman’s personnel file was provided to the News in the same records request.
Hardman has been replaced by former Knox County Clerk of Courts Mary Jo Hawkins on an interim basis.
The court has been under investigation by the Ohio Auditor’s Office since February 2019. In December 2018, employees reported to the Mount Vernon Police Department that someone was stealing money from the office.
A copy of the Ohio Revised Code regarding protections for whistleblowers was included in Hardman’s personnel file, but there is no accompanying documentation as to why it is there.
The city’s 2018 audit, performed by an independent firm, found that $7,749.05 was missing.
Following the state auditor’s investigation, the court adopted new protocols for bank deposits, requiring multiple employees to reconcile the deposit amounts. Security cameras were also installed in the clerk’s office.
This protocol was revised after a cash drawer in the clerk’s office came up $30 short Nov. 12, 2019. Thatcher, in an e-mail to Hardman, writes he has “emphasized the importance of attention to detail when handling money” and said when a drawer is short a security officer is to stay late with the clerk to review video, a deputy clerk or clerk is to stay late to resolve the problem, and to report to him once the problem was resolved.
The Nov. 12 discrepancy occurred due to a clerk accidentally giving back too much change to someone making a payment, according to emails between Thatcher and Hardman. The individual who received the change was contacted and said they would send a relative to bring in the $30, according to the emails.
A few days later on Nov. 18, Hardman notified Thatcher that the cash drawer was $10 short but the money was located. Thatcher stated that he was including the incident in Hardman’s file as well as the clerk who made the mistake, again emphasizing “the importance of taking the time to be accurate with the cash drawer and all other accounts.”
Hardman was employed with the court since December of 2015, according to her personnel file.
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