- Josh Sweigart Staff Writer
The former fiscal officer for New Madison is suing the Ohio Auditor of State, claiming malicious prosecution after theft-in-office charges against the former village accountant were dismissed.
Wanda Lacey on Oct. 25 filed a lawsuit against the state auditor’s office in which she accused the auditor’s office of seeking felony theft-in-office charges against her despite having insufficient evidence .
The lawsuit, filed in the Ohio Court of Claims, seeks unspecified damages exceeding $100,000.
Lacey was indicted by a grand jury in December 2016 on two counts of theft in office after the auditor’s office concluded that an audit found she stole more than $21,500 from the township. The charges were dropped in September 2017.
Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost said Friday that the case was dismissed without prejudice because new evidence was discovered.
“The state anticipates the case will be re-filed after the newly discovered evidence has been analyzed,” he said. “The claim of malicious prosecution is without merit and will fail. A grand jury considered the evidence and found probable cause to believe that the crimes had been committed by the person charged.”
Royce Link, Lacey’s attorney, said the auditor’s office investigator mistakenly determined the money as missing without doing due diligence to find it in the village’s books.
“Whether she was just overly zealous, new to the job and wanted to make an impression and get somebody, whether she actually did not like Wanda Lacey, whether somebody else who worked in the village told her some stuff that set her on fire against her, those are the types of reasons why a person would do that,” Link said when asked why the state auditor’s office would falsely accuse his client.
The charges resulted in Lacey losing her job, suffering physically and mentally and damaging her reputation, he said.
“You get charged with theft in office as an accountant, that’s pretty much going to make it hard to get a job,” he said.
While the theft charges were dropped, a separate audit released Thursday included an administrative finding against Lacey for not paying village taxes on time, incurring $8,166 in fees. Lacey and her bonding company were jointly ordered to repay the money.
Yost issued a statement, along with the audit, saying Lacey’s “negligence” cost village taxpayers money.
Link said Yost’s comments were an attempt to “mitigate the exposure” from Lacey’s lawsuit.
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