As state auditors have been going over the financial records in Bethel to discover just how accounting errors dating back several years have affected the general fund, they also discovered a discrepancy in the mayors court account.
“We found out a week ago last Thursday (May 21) from the auditor’s office that there was a problem with the mayor’s court account,” said Travis Dotson, village administrator.
Auditors are not expected to have a full report until the week of June 8, but according to Dotson, the mayor’s court account was showing a difference between the amount deposited and what was reportedly paid into the account. Mayors court accounts were being handled by clerk Laurie Taylor.
Criminal charges will be filed by the state auditor's office after the audit is complete and the Village of Bethel will be named as the plaintiff. The total amount of funds missing is unknown at this time, but Taylor admitted to taking money when fines were paid in cash. Dotson reported that Taylor did not try to conceal the fact that deposits didn't match the fines.
Village officials noted that those who paid their fines in cash will not have any problems with their driving records. The village coffers will be what comes up short.
Taylor took over duties of mayor's court clerk at the end of 2007 when the former clerk retired. She has been serving as Bethel police clerk for eight years and took on the additional work.
Village of Bethel employee Kelly Terry has been trained as a back-up clerk and will be taking over the duties as mayor's court clerk. The safety committee has scheduled a special meeting to decide what to do about the clerk position in the police department. As police clerk, Taylor handled the daily activities within the department and the safety committee will be deciding if they will hire someone to handle both jobs or divide the work.
"This is something that we weren't planning on," said Dotson. "We will have to deal with this on top of the other problems we're experiencing. This has put an extra hardship on police chief Mark Planck, and we know that this will be hard on Laurie's family and her children."
Chief Planck commented on the turn of events and the effects on the daily operations at the police department.
"We are very saddened at the news of one of the most trusted police department employees to have admitted to wrong-doing and of this magnitude," said Planck. "I was hopeful that the state auditor's office was incorrect in their findings, but when their investigator put together his criminal case and her admission of guilt, it was heartbreaking. I am currently scrambling to learn her other job functions so that we can press on and deliver the service that all of the citizens are used to," said Planck.