Nelsonville City Hall

Nelsonville City Council meets every other Monday at City Hall.

NELSONVILLE — On Monday, the Nelsonville Deputy Auditor was indicted on multiple counts related to fabrication of payroll records and theft of over $40,000 from the city’s coffers.

Stephanie Wilson, 46, of Stewart, was indicted this week on three felony counts that could land her in jail, namely forgery, telecommunications fraud and tampering with evidence.

This isn’t the first theft in office in Athens County in recent years. Last year, Teresa Holsinger, mayor’s court clerk in Coolville, pled guilty in Athens County Common Pleas Court to theft in office and tampering with records.

As part of a plea agreement, Holsinger entered the county prosecutor’s Athens County Empowerment (ACE) diversion program. As part of the plea agreement, she was ordered to pay $1,549 in restitution.

However, Holsinger’s position was covered by a bond, and the rest of the monies were repaid through insurance, allowing the city to operate without a deficit from Holsinger.

According to Nelsonville Auditor Taylor Sappington, his position is covered by a bond. However, deputy auditors are not covered by bonds, nor covered by a bond for his predecessor, Garry Dickerson, to his knowledge.

“It’s not something we’ve explored,” he said. “It does bring up the question of whether (the alleged theft) is covered by Dickerson’s bond.”

Sappington said he was also unsure what might happen in the city auditor’s office moving forward, as well as what might happen with the case. He said he hopes to ensure each of the office’s practices is overseen by more than one staff member.

“On my end, we will have state investigators from the State Auditor’s office here for a long time to dig through anything they can,” he said. “They’ll attempt to find who all may have been involved, and how to get restitution. I can’t make it go back to the way it was before, but I hope to make it better moving forward.”

He said the most immediate change has been to payroll, which will be handled by an outside agency moving forward. Before, it had been handled in-office by one employee. With the new agency involved, eyes will be on payroll both inside and outside of City Hall.

“The easiest change is to have two eyes on everything,” he said. “The state and other entities are going to say there wasn’t much segregation of duty ... there should always be segregation of duties, so one person should not have control of processes from start to finish.”

He noted an example of this is the income tax and reconciliation funds, which before were handled solely by the auditor. Now, Sappington is responsible for opening the envelopes and looking at the charges, but another employee will be present for this process and will be in charge of the deposit.

“I think citizens should understand and know that many of us here (in City Hall) are as bothered and outraged as they are,” he said. “I’m determined to make sure that everyone who comes in here to pay registration, water bills, whatever — they should all know and be confidence that those tax monies are safe and being used responsibly.”

The Messenger has asked for comment from city solicitor Garry Hunter, but have not received any response.

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