LIMA — A former deputy clerk at the Lima Municipal Clerk of Courts’ office was sentenced Friday to up to three years in prison after admitting she stole more than $330,000 from the city between 1997 and 2012.
Susan Barnett, 76, of Lima, was given until Monday to report to the Allen County Sheriff’s Office for transportation to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to begin serving her sentence. She will be eligible to apply for a judicial release after serving six months of her sentence.
Steve Cleaves, finance director for the city of Lima, addressed the court prior to sentencing and said Barnett’s actions had a substantial negative impact on the city’s general fund and the services the city will be able to offer residents.
Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffery Reed, however, noted in his sentencing statement that the city to some degree did help “facilitate” Barnett’s thefts by failing to provide an adequate level of oversight and accounting practices.
Special Prosecutor Robert Smith, assistant chief legal counsel for the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office, said investigators determined that Barnett stole from the city on more than 1,000 separate dates during her 15 1/2 years in office. He said a “vast amount” of money was lost by the city.
Barnett has agreed to repay the city to the tune of $331,706. A document signed by Barnett on Friday authorizes 25% of her monthly Public Employee Retirement System pension —$600 — to be directed to the city as payment toward her restitution.
While her attorneys had asked that a prison term for Barnett be avoided due to her age and because she is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Reed said she had committed a “very serious office with numerous victims” and had “violated her position of trust” as a public employee.
Barnett 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.
She agreed to plead guilty to one count of theft in office and one count of telecommunications fraud. In exchange for that plea, prosecutors dismissed the remaining four counts.
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.
The special prosecutor in earlier hearings 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.”