Last updated: March 06. 2014 4:11PM - 3712 Views
Sarah Hawley shawley@civitasmedia.com

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COLUMBUS — Two former employees stole more than $82,000 from the village of Rutland, according to a special audit released Thursday by State Auditor Dave Yost.

“These findings not only speak to corruption, but negligence as well,” Yost said. “Management was asleep at the wheel.”

Mista Eldridge, 32, of Rutland, is the second person to be charged in connection with this case. She was indicted in February by the Meigs County Grand Jury and will be arraigned later this month.

In February 2011, Mista Eldridge began working off court-ordered community service hours in the village’s utility department. In October 2011, the village hired Eldridge as a water clerk while she was still completing community service. The audit found that in 2011 and 2012, Eldridge’s certified community service hours overlapped with her paid hours by 107.5 and 188.5 hours, respectively. Based on her hourly rate of $8.50, a finding for recovery was issued against Eldridge in the amount of $2,515.

The audit also found that Eldridge wrote duplicate receipts for cash collected that was not accounted for — totaling $1,094. Eldridge adjusted utility accounts as well, reducing the amounts billed to zero and payments made to zero. Billing stubs totaling $11,072 were found indicating that payments were received by the village, but they were not included in bank deposits. A second finding for recovery was issued against Eldridge in the amount of $12,166.

On February 13, 2014, Eldridge was indicted on charges of theft in office and tampering with records.

Court records indicate she was scheduled to be arraigned on March 3, but the courthouse was closed that day due to inclement weather. Her arraignment is now scheduled for 10:15 a.m. March 24.

An attorney is not listed for Eldridge in the court records.

Laura Curtis, 32, of Vinton, was charged in 2012 with the crime of theft in office and entered a guilty plea to those charges.

The audit found that in 2010 and 2011, former fiscal officer Laura Curtis stole $3,007 and $5,725, respectively, in cash collected by the village’s Mayor’s Court. Both amounts were recorded in court records, but missing from bank deposits. Reviews of the village’s utility system in 2010 and 2011 found that receipts totaling $25,405.44 and $25,518.99, respectively, were not included in receipts recorded on the village’s Uniform Accounting Network or deposited to the bank.

Curtis also wrote duplicate receipts for cash collected that was not accounted for — totaling $6,135.97. A finding for recovery was issued against Curtis in the amount of $65,791.

Additional findings issued against Curtis include $1,311 in missing utility payments and $308 in unsupported purchases.

Curtis pled guilty to theft in office in August 2012 and was sentenced to three years in prison, the maximum allowed, and ordered to repay $50,000 to the village of Rutland.

She served just four months in prison, with the village agreeing to her early release just before Christmas 2012.

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