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Cases draw state action

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Five years after a state audit found more than $2,300 had been taken from the county animal shelter, none of the money has been paid back.

Cheryl Long, a former interim director of the Johnson County Animal Shelter, owes money that she never deposited into the bank for the animal shelter. Long took the money to pay for personal expenses with the intent of paying it back, but that never happened. In 2012, the state attorney general won a civil lawsuit against Long to get that money back.

Almost two years after winning the lawsuit and almost five years since the money was taken, nothing has been paid back. Now, the state has filed a motion to find Long in contempt of court. If she doesn’t show up to court hearings, she could be sent to jail, said Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

Long could not be reached.

That’s not the only local case the attorney general’s office is pursuing. The state also has filed a civil lawsuit against former White River Township firefighters Anthony Slusher and Mike Rude, looking to regain the $25,000 that an audit said they were overpaid. The state is considering a third case against former Bargersville Clerk-Treasurer Amy Carson, after a state audit showed she overpaid herself about $2,200.

Those three cases amount to about $30,000 of taxpayer money.

So far, only one of those four people — Slusher — has made any attempt to repay any money. He initially paid $1,082 to the fire department after the audit but still owes $6,726.

The audit said Slusher reported overtime hours totaling $7,810 that he did not work and was not approved to work. Rude owes $17,737 after a state audit said he used a password to get into the payroll system and change the hours he worked, reporting more than 1,600 hours of work he did not do. In a letter to the Indiana State Board of Accounts, Rude said his time was entered into the system by his supervisors, and he was paid the hours that they entered.

Both firefighters were terminated by the fire department after the audit. An attorney for Slusher declined to comment, and Rude did not return messages.

The attorney general’s office also is considering filing a civil lawsuit against Carson.

A state audit showed that in 2007 pay increases were adopted by the town council but implemented a year too early by Carson, and she was overpaid $2,199. In the audit, the state requested the money be paid back.

Carson, who did not return messages, received information about the overpayment and a request to pay the money back via certified mail, according to the audit. The attorney general’s office is reviewing the case and considering a lawsuit, but Corbin declined to comment further.

The office is pursuing 134 cases statewide totaling more than $11 million, including eight cases in Marion County that amount to $1.6 million. Hamilton and Hendricks counties are two of 35 counties in the state without an open case.

A few of the cases statewide can reach large amounts, such as former Cannelton City Schools Superintendent Marion Chapman, who was found to have overpaid himself about $600,000 over five years, according to a state audit and civil judgment.

The three open cases in Johnson County don’t amount to anywhere near that amount, but the funds are still needed locally, officials said.

For example, the missing money from the animal shelter could buy vaccines for animals. A dose of vaccine costs about $3, and the money Long owes the shelter could buy about four months of vaccines, animal warden Mike Delp said.

The state can take the same actions a creditor can to get the money back, such as placing a lien on property, freezing bank accounts or liquidating property, Corbin said. People could be sent to jail if they do not pay and ignore all requests to show up for court hearings.

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