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Reimbursement requested from former city worker

by James Ehle - jehle@h-ponline.com

The Indiana State Board of Accounts is requesting reimbursement from former Huntington Police Department office manager Amy Wagner who allegedly took cash from the police department.

Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA) found in an investigation that Wagner remitted $2,350 in cash to the Clerk-Treasurer on March 3, 2016, without receipts or documents supporting the cash remittance.

After applying the unidentified cash remittance to the receipts identified as not remitted to the Clerk-Treasurer, remaining collections not remitted to the Clerk-Treasurer totaled $3,798.46

SBOA requested that Wagner reimburse the City $3,798.46 for the collections not remitted.

The State of Indiana incurred costs in the amount of $4,893.25 due to the special investigation of Police Department receipts and collections.

SBOA requested a total of $8,691.71 from Wagner in reimbursement costs.

In early 2017, HPD became suspicious that Wagner was stealing money from the petty cash drawer to pay personal rent, so the department documented and tracked the cash by making copies of individual dollar bills, according to an SBOA audit filed in 2018. When Wagner paid her rent of $350 to the Police Athletic League in August of 2017, $50 of bills from the petty cash drawer were found in the rent payment, according to police reports.

Police Chief Chad Hacker told investigators that a dollar amount of the theft was not determinable since receipts were not issued for the collections, according to the SBOA audit. A $20 bill that went missing from the drawer was not found, according to police reports.

Police say Wagner initially denied taking the cash but later confessed and resigned upon seeing the evidence in August 2017. Wagner became office manager in May of 2002, receiving approximately $40,000 per year, according to audit and police reports. Wagner was solely responsible for remitting Police Department collections to the Clerk-Treasurer.

Investigators say Hacker immediately contacted Indiana State Police (ISP) and Huntington County Prosecuting Attorney Amy Richison for an investigation into the theft, but according to the SBOA audit, “The City failed to immediately report misappropriation of public funds to the SBOA as required by state statute.”

An official response from the City of Huntington states that the Clerk-Treasurers office was not aware that the situation needed to be immediately reported in writing to the SBOA, since the City disclosed the theft and explained the situation to SBOA auditors during a pre-audit meeting in 2018, which is when SBOA says they first heard about the theft.

The City modified and implemented its internal control policies and procedures to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Hacker said he immediately consulted with the Clerk-Treasurer’s office to implement a new policy that would only accept checks and credit or debit card transactions, and since then, no cash has been accepted, per City of Huntington policy.

“The Clerk-Treasurer is confident that these changes will greatly reduce or eliminate the possibility of a repeat situation... This was an unfortunate situation that involved a formerly well thought of and trusted employee. The City firmly believes that, with its new policies and internal control standards, the risk of a similar future situation is very low,” the City’s official response states.

Since Clerk-Treasurer Christi McElhaney took office in 2012, the SBOA has found McElhaney to be compliant and, SBOA has not identified any corrective measures or adverse opinions besides policy clarifications, according to SBOA records.