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May 21, 2012

MELISSA MACKEY

Staff Writer

The former fiscal officer of Ashley was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years community control after admitting she stole more than $17,000 in village money.

Tamera Griffith, 40, pleaded guilty in March to a fourth-degree felony count of theft in office, in which she wrote herself an unspecified number of checks from the village’s payroll fund between January 2008 and January 2009. She served as the village of Ashley’s full-time fiscal officer from June 2006 to June 2009.

Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Duncan Whitney sentenced Griffith to 30 days in the Delaware County Jail and three years community control.

As part of her sentence, Griffith also should not have any further misconduct, including misdemeanors, felonies and traffic violations. She should also maintain her place of residence and be employed within 60 days.

Griffith cannot leave Ohio without permission or own, use or possess a firearm. She is prohibited for life from holding public office and should also complete 200 hours of community service.

Griffith’s defense attorney, Tony Heald, told the court that his client has no record and has lived a good life.

“This is one of these very, very sad cases where a life well-lived for a long time is now going to have a blot upon it,” Heald said. “She’s a good citizen who has suffered at her own hand.”

That blot, along with Griffith’s skill set and age, has made it difficult to find employment since she was indicted, Heald said.

Heald also said that the Ashley’s bonding company has paid back the $17,658 to the village.

Prior to her sentencing, a crying Griffith made a statement acknowledging her regret for taking money from the village.

“During this process, I regret what I’ve done, letting God down, my family and friends and the people of Ashley,” said Griffith, who wore a blouse and black pleated skirt. She also spoke at length about how many different family events she would miss if placed in jail for her misconduct.

Whitney said that he didn’t think she gave a sincere apology in her statement.

“I’ve heard a lot about what you would miss if put in jail or in Marysville, but I didn’t hear a sincere apology,” Whitney said prior to sentencing.

An investigation into Griffith’s work with the village began after state auditors, conducting a routine review of 2007 and 2008 village finances, discovered that she had overpaid herself by $8,235 and her husband, Ken Griffith, who operated the village’s wastewater treatment plant under contract, by $9,423.

The audit, released in July 2010, was also critical of a number of the village’s accounting practices, which it said lacked sufficient oversight to prevent payroll abuses.

In her position as fiscal officer, Griffith’s responsibilities include receipting and depositing funds received, processing payroll and issuing payments for village-related expenditures. In May 2008, Ashley village council approved a requirement that there be two signatures on all village checks. However, it was found that several checks issued to Griffith only contained her signature, prosecutors said.

Griffith resigned in June 2009, shortly after the village council prohibited her from signing village checks.

Bankruptcy court records show Griffith was going through financial difficulty during the time prosecutors say she stole from the village. Griffith and her husband were prematurely dismissed from a Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan in March 2008 after they stopped making their monthly payments, court records show.

The couple had filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Ohio in 2003.