A former fiscal officer for Washington Township was indicted by grand jury last week on two counts of theft in office and two other counts of tampering with evidence.

A former fiscal officer for Washington Township was indicted by grand jury last week on two counts of theft in office and two other counts of tampering with evidence.

Valerie Cox, 49, of Richwood, has been charged in Union County with abusing dual positions with the township and the North Union Local School District, allegedly pocketing about $38,000, according to the Ohio Auditor of State's office.

"During our audits we uncovered deliberate schemes by a public employee who abused her positions of trust to steal thousands of dollars," said auditor Mary Taylor.

According to audits released last week by Taylor's office, $19,117 was taken from Washington Township. The perpetrator used pre-signed township invoices to justify bogus payments for personal expenses, according to the auditor's office, and also issued checks in the name of another person without his knowledge before cashing the checks at a local bank.

According to Taylor's report to the North Union Local School District (where Cox worked as a high school secretary), Cox allegedly failed to deposit $18,531 in student fees.

None of the money stolen from the township nor the school district, a total of $37,648, has yet been repaid, according to the auditor.

An investigation began last summer, when Union County Prosecutor David Phillips asked for a special audit of Washington Township's finances. The auditor's office worked with the Union County Sheriff's office, which executed a search warrant of Cox's home and seized financial records and personal computer equipment. Taylor's reports were then turned over to Union County prosecutors to determine criminal charges.

"Several recommendations are outlined in these reports that public officials could implement to improve financial oversight and to help prevent similar situations from occurring in the future," Taylor said.

This occurrence isn't the only case of theft of public funds in the past month. The auditor's office also released details on Feb. 8 of a special audit that had been conducted of the Fairbanks Local School District's Panther PAWS program.

According to a statement from the auditor's office, former program coordinator Teresa M. Scholl allegedly manipulated financial records to conceal the theft of more than $17,000.

The district's Panther PAWS program offers child care for elementary schoolers before and after school.

Taylor's audit revealed that School allegedly did not deposit child care registration fees totaling $17,010 from May 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008. The fault was discovered when a local parent notified the district that a check used to pay for a child's participation in the program had been altered.

Scholl had repaid the entire amount by Jan. 12, 2010, according to Taylor's office. Scholl has been charged with one count of theft in office.

"Our school children are cheated whenever public money intended to enhance their well-being is stolen," Taylor said. "I strongly encourage school officials to review the recommendations we have outlined in this report and use them to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future."

Complete text of all three audits can be found on the Ohio Auditor of State's Web site, www.auditor.state.oh.us.