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Former City Employee Pleads Guilty to Theft in Office

Posted October 3, 2018 in Administration by Anna Subler
FORMER CITY EMPLOYEE PLEADS GUILTY TO THEFT IN OFFICE
 
Heather Ernst, former Deputy Director of Recreation and Parks, pled guilty today to felony charges including theft in office, a felony of the third degree, and attempted tampering with records, a felony of the fourth degree. These charges resulted from an investigation by the Hilliard Division of Police that determined Ernst had stolen more than $540,000 in cash from the City’s two aquatic centers over a five-year period.
 
Ernst pled guilty this morning before Judge Cain of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Cain will hold a sentencing hearing on November 16th in Courtroom 7F.
 
According to the City’s Law Director, Tracy Bradford, Ernst faces up to four-and-a-half years in prison and fines up to $15,000. “We will be requesting that restitution by Ernst to the City be included as part of the Court’s sentencing.”
 
“With the plea of guilty on these felony charges, it is an admission by her that she violated the public trust. Ms. Ernst manipulated the City’s financial controls for her own personal gain and I am pleased that she is ready to accept the consequences of her actions,” said Mayor Don Schonhardt.
 
Ernst resigned from the City on November 1, 2017 shortly after a criminal theft investigation was initiated by the Hilliard Division of Police. In March of this year, Ernst was indicted on one count of theft, a third-degree felony; one count of theft in office, a third-degree felony; two counts of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and four counts of filing incomplete, false and fraudulent tax records, a fifth-degree felony.
 
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HILLIARD CITY COUNCIL RESPONDS TO GUILTY PLEA OF HEATHER ERNST
 
The Hilliard City Council issued the below media statement today regarding the guilty plea in the criminal case against former City of Hilliard Deputy Director of Recreation and Parks Heather Ernst.
 
“Hilliard City Council is pleased that the former City of Hilliard Deputy Director of Recreation and Parks, Heather Ernst, accepted responsibility for her actions by pleading guilty today to two felonies – theft in office and attempted tampering with records. At her sentencing hearing later this year, the Council will ask the Court for full restitution of all stolen funds.
 
“Ernst’s admission of stealing from Hilliard’s taxpayers is the first major step towards holding her accountable for her theft in office and her betrayal of the public trust. The Council will continue to pursue full repayment of every dollar stolen.
 
The Council remains committed to our residents and to the community to support the investigation. We thank the Hilliard community for their ongoing patience in this matter, and we will continue to update our website as new information is available.”
 
Council encourages residents with questions or concerns regarding this matter to send their inquiries to citycouncil@hilliardohio.gov.