Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office filed a lawsuit Thursday against a former county deputy clerk to recover more than $75,000 in public funds she allegedly misappropriated before being fired.
Sara Chamberlain, according to a State Board of Accounts audit, cashed cash shortages in the Wabash County Clerk's Office by failing to deposit cash payments received, substituting checks for cash, voiding payments and adjusting payments to hide the shortages in the records. The audit covers transactions between Jan. 1, 2011 and Sept. 13, 2013. The lawsuit seeks repayment of $75,333.18.
The AG office's jurisdiction is civil only. The Wabash County Prosecutor's Office in February filed criminal charges against Chamberlain of three counts of theft, one count of official misconduct and one count of corrupt business influence. The county had $20,000 of insurance coverage in place for employee theft, and any part of the loss not covered by insurance would be Chamberlain's personal responsibility to repay.
The State Board of Accounts audit authorizes the AG office to serve as the state's collection agent and recover public funds in civil court, using the same methods a creditor can use against a debtor to collect on a debt. By filing a lawsuit called a complaint to recover public funds, the AG seeks a civil judgment against Chamberlain and can pursue collection actions such as freezing bank accounts and placing liens against property.
Zoeller's office also requested the presiding judge to issue a temporary restraining order banning Chamberlain from selling, transferring or concealing any financial assets she owns - including bank accounts, retirement accounts, three properties and five vehicles. A hearing is set for June 6 in Wabash County Circuit Court.
Zoeller's office since January 2009, through filing some 100 lawsuits and other efforts, has collected approximately $4.5 million from current and former officials to reimburse local governments for amounts misappropriated.