Nelsonville’s deputy auditor was indicted Monday on multiple felony counts relating to her allegedly fabricating payroll records and stealing more than $40,000 from the city of Nelsonville since 2012.
An Athens County grand jury indicted Stephanie Wilson, 46, of Stewart, on a fourth-degree felony count of tampering with evidence, a fourth-degree felony count of forgery, and a third-degree felony count of telecommunications fraud.
Recently elected Nelsonville City Auditor Taylor Sappington reported several “irregularities in the payroll and direct deposit reports” to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn’s office last week, according to a release from that office.
“Wilson, who worked for the city of Nelsonville as a deputy auditor and was responsible for payroll since 2012, is accused of fabricating payroll records to have money electronically transferred to an account under her control,” the release from Blackburn’s office reads. “The amount of alleged theft is in excess of $40,000.00.”
Blackburn explained Monday that Wilson has agreed to step down from her position with the city of Nelsonville, as well as step down from an unrelated position as a member of Federal Hocking Local School Board. He said that he’s “100 percent” certain that the amount allegedly stolen by Wilson amounts to more than $40,000, but said that his office is still investigating the case with Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber’s office assisting. Blackburn didn’t rule out the possibility of other criminal charges or potential findings for recovery from the Auditor of State’s office.
After an early form of this story was posted on Monday, many on social media questioned how Wilson was able to get away with allegedly stealing from the city for so long.
Garry Dickerson, Nelsonville’s former auditor, said in a brief phone call Tuesday that he “hadn’t noticed anything” wrong while working with Wilson, adding that she was in charge of payroll for the city during his time as city auditor.
“She must have been flying under the radar somehow,” Dickerson said, adding that he was “shocked” and “never suspected anything.”
Blackburn’s office executed a search warrant on Wilson’s office last Wednesday, Feb. 5. Wilson is “currently cooperative” with the prosecutor’s office, the release said, and will appear for arraignment later this month.
The release notes that Sappington – who is a former Nelsonville City Council member – has been cooperating with the investigation and “open to finding the issues with the Nelsonville finances.”
Sappington won election in November, beating former city Auditor Dickerson (402 to 372 votes) who had held that office since 2014. Blackburn said he was “grateful” to Sappington for “uncovering this and reporting this to us.” Blackburn said the issues with the finances were reported to the Prosecutor’s Office on Feb. 4.
Blackburn added that his office is still working to get to the bottom of “several issues that have now come up with practices in the city of Nelsonville regarding payroll and (related) processes.”
Chuck Barga, Nelsonville’s former city manager who recently announced his retirement, did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday morning. Barga formerly worked for the Ohio Auditor of State’s office.
Nelsonville City Council hired an interim city manager last week, choosing Nelsonville resident Scott Frank, who recently retired from the U.S. Air Force. Council President Anthony Dunfee confirmed as much in an email this week, but did not respond to multiple requests for information on the other candidates considered by City Council.