LIMA — A prosecutor was highly critical Wednesday of a former inspector of a government housing agency program caught working at another job and on personal endeavors while on the clock.
“In this particular case people do get hurt and it’s the taxpayers. For every dollar that he took it was some taxpayer’s hard-earned money that he gave to the government and trusted that it would be used appropriately that he wouldn’t go on private affairs of folly, frolic and detour to girlfriends and to hotels,” Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick said.
Bruce Monford was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $1,000, and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He pleaded guilty to two counts of tampering with records and two counts of theft in office.
Police observed Monford for a 60-day period after allegations of misconduct. During that time, there were 23 days an officer found him at another job at the Mary Alice House, conducting funerals for the Philippian Missionary Baptist Church, getting haircuts twice a week and stopping by the home of a woman who told authorities they had “a physical relationship,” all while on company time, Waldick said.
“I consider it an insult to both the court and the general public for us to believe those were the only days that the defendant stole from the taxpayers. He didn’t know he was being watched and quite frankly to ask us to believe, out of those 60 days, that we were so lucky during the surveillance that we hit all 23 of days that he was doing these things is insulting,” Waldick said.
Judge David Cheney of Allen County Common Pleas Court asked Monford whether he was written up or disciplined in the past for his actions. Monford said he never was written up until this case came about.
“What happened here is clearly wrong and it’s not ethical,” Cheney said.
Monford’s attorney, Bill Kluge, said there was no agency policy that required Monford to return to the agency if he finished his work. Monford would receive a worksheet listing the work he needed to get done that day, Kluge said.
“Sometimes it only took 15 minutes, sometimes it only took a couple hours, sometimes it took the whole day,” Kluge said.
Kluge also said Monford’s contribution to the community, including his work at the Mary Alice House helping people with drug and alcohol problems, should not be forgotten.
“Here’s a man who has given much back to the community,” Kluge said.
Monford’s sentencing ends the third and final criminal case filed against employees of the agency.
In May, agency Director Anna Schnippel was acquitted at trial of the misdemeanor charge accusing her of making a false statement. Days later, the prosecution dismissed the misdemeanor case against Met Housing receptionist Cheryl Lawson, who authorities accused of filing a false workers’ compensation claim. The also dismissed and obstruction case before that.
The charges against both women were in connection with a police raid on the agency in March 2012 after an anonymous complaint was made that someone in the agency was shredding records, which it turned out there was no evidence that ever occurred.
Met Housing Board President Pastor B. Lamont Monford, who is Bruce Monford’s brother, said taxpayers also should be upset with the Lima Police Department and the city prosecutor’s office.
“We used a cannon to kill a gnat. The gnat was $1,145 that was abused in hours by Bruce Monford, but the investigation cost the agency $230,000 in legal fees,” he said.
Those legal fees to defend the case against Schnippel and Lawson were at taxpayer’s expense because they were conducting actions while on duty that authorities wrongly said were crimes that were proved not to be, Lamont Monford said.
“This was money that could have been used to serve the clients of Lima and the Allen County community,” said.
Lamont Monford said the $230,000 does not include the cost to taxpayers of the numerous hours police investigators and the prosecution logged in their unsuccessful efforts against Schnippel and Lawson.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said the hours or cost of the investigation was not tracked so he doesn’t have tallies. He, however, said the Ohio Ethics Commission asked the department to investigation an allegation of corruption and that’s what the Police Department did.
“We’re not going to shy away from our responsibility in regards to investigating those complaints,” Martin said.
Martin also said even though there were not convictions in the cases at Municipal Court, the crimes of Bruce Monford were discovered, he was convicted and sentenced.
Lamont Monford said his brother’s legal fees were not paid by the agency. Those came out of his pocket because the circumstances of the charges were much different.
There also have been several lawsuits filed against the agency with one pending.
The legal problems began surfacing after former long-term agency Director Cindi Ring was fired. During Schnippel’s trial, her attorney accused Ring and others of colluding to undermine current employees and those who run the agency.