A Letter to the Community from City CouncilPosted October 28, 2019 in City Council
HILLIARD, Ohio – On Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, Hilliard City Council voted to present the following update to the community on the promises made to the community related to the theft of funds by former City employee Heather Ernst.
October 28, 2019
A letter to our community,
City Council is committed to representing and protecting the interests of Hilliard residents. We believe residents must be able to trust their elected officials and local government. Transparency is an important part of ensuring that trust.
When City Council learned in November 2017 of the theft of significant City funds by a long-term employee, we promised our community that we would do three things:
- determine what happened (achieved, in part, through investigations by Hilliard Police Department, the State Auditor, internal review by City staff, and work by an outside auditing firm)
- hold those responsible for the theft accountable (through criminal and civil cases against former employee Heather Ernst and a recently filed civil suit filed against the City’s former auditing firm)
- take all necessary steps to safeguard against such theft of public funds happening in the future (being achieved, in part, through ongoing implementation of recommendations by outside auditors.)
We want to be as transparent as possible about the significant progress the City has made toward achieving these goals while also being as responsible as possible to our taxpayers. To that end, we invite you to visit the City website at https://hilliardohio.gov/community-letter/ to learn what steps the City has taken to date, what is still in process, what is expected as we move forward, and a timeline of key events.
The website also includes a complete financial accounting of the funds A) expended on legal and auditing services and B) received in restitution as of early October 2019. Throughout this process, Council has consistently worked to be a good steward of the funds entrusted to us. (The most recent example of this stewardship is that we capped the possible future legal expenses for our lawsuit against the City’s previous auditing firm at just $20,000.)
While the money spent on this matter has been significant, Council has weighed each expense compared to the amount of potential funds we believe the City can recover. Our expectation is that the City will be made whole by the time all legal actions are completed. It’s also worth noting that, regardless of potential recovery, the City would have spent a large portion of these funds on audits to identify needed changes to policy and practice that will prevent additional thefts in the future.
City Council remains committed to earning our community’s trust. To that end, City Council will continue to keep the community updated on the status of our efforts, as well as the civil suit proceedings, as we work together with the City Administration to ensure taxpayer funds are secure in the future.
Questions may be addressed via email to City Council.