LIMA — A former deputy clerk at the Lima Municipal Clerk of Courts’ office on Monday admitted stealing more than $7,500 from the city between 1997 and 2012.
Susan Barnett, 76, of Lima, was charged under an amended indictment in April 2018 on two counts of theft in office, third-degree felonies; one count each of telecommunications fraud, a third-degree felony; engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony; aggravated theft, a felony of the third degree; and receiving stolen property, also a third-degree felony.
An investigation by the state auditor’s office led to the indictment of Barnett.
After more than a year of what Robert Smith, assistant chief legal counsel for the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office, termed as “extensive discussions” with Barnett’s legal team, the two sides reached a resolution that was approved by Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed on Monday.
According to Smith, the parties entered into an agreement that called for Barnett to plead guilty to one count of theft in office and one count of telecommunications fraud. In exchange for that plea, Smith said the state would dismiss the remaining four counts in the indictment.
As part of the agreement, Barnett will be barred for life from holding public office or “a position of trust” in the state of Ohio, Smith said.
Barnett was employed by the Lima Municipal Clerk of Courts from Nov. 7, 1983, until her retirement on May 31, 2012. She was appointed as chief deputy clerk on Oct. 2, 1995.
In a written memorandum in opposition to a defense motion for the dismissal of charges last fall, Smith said that is wasn’t until current Clerk of Courts Jim Link brought to the state’s attention a discrepancy of funds in the clerk’s office that an investigation was initiated. He said in that document that investigators ultimately determined that Barnett stole the funds through a “check substitution scheme.”
Smith said the state did not discover the alleged offense until December 2016 “due, in large part, to the defendant’s actions in covering up her own criminal acts.”
Reed, in accepting Barnett’s guilty pleas, set a restitution hearing for Sept. 5. A date for sentencing will be set later, the judge said.
Barnett faces a maximum prison term of 36 months in prison on each of the counts, a potential six-year prison sentence. But Reed said prison is not mandatory under Ohio law. A pre-sentence investigated was also ordered.