HILLSBORO — Former Highland County Commission Clerk Rhonda Smalley pled guilty on Wednesday to one count of theft in office and voluntarily cut a check to the county paying restitution for government funds she reportedly spent on home improvements, gas and groceries.
Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set a sentencing hearing for 1 p.m. Thursday, May 17.
As previously reported, Smalley resigned from her post in December last year after she was confronted for allegedly making unauthorized purchases on the county’s dime.
Smalley was later indicted on one count of theft in office, a fourth-degree felony, and one count of misuse of a credit card, a fifth-degree felony.
The credit card violation was dismissed Wednesday as part of a plea agreement.
A bill of particulars filed in the case alleges that from July 28, 2017 through Nov. 12, 2017, Smalley used county-controlled credit cards to make purchases or charges totaling $2,845.22.
The bill says that on Dec. 7 last year, Commissioner Shane Wilkin called Smalley to confront her about the unapproved use of credit cards, and that Smalley chose to resign when confronted.
After waiving her Miranda warnings, Smalley admitted that she used the cards without permission, the bill of particulars says.
“Smalley stated that she used the Wal-Mart card at the Hillsboro Wal-Mart to purchase groceries. Smalley admitted that she used the Lowe’s card on several occasions at the Hillsboro Lowe’s. Smalley advised that she was remodeling a home and ran out of money, and that she planned to pay it back,” the bill says. “Smalley advised that she knew she was not permitted to use the cards in the way she was.”
Court documents list unauthorized purchases at Speedway, Walmart and Lowe’s.
According to the bill, several items were delivered to Smalley’s home in Peebles and a signature on one of the receipts was Smalley’s.
During the hearing Wednesday, Smalley presented a check making restitution to Highland County for a total of $2,845.22. Coss said the restitution was voluntary.
The prosecution and defense made a joint recommendation that Smalley be sentenced to a term of community control sanctions.
Coss said the maximum penalty for theft in office is 18 months in prison, although according to House Bill 86, if it is found Smalley has no prior criminal record, she will likely not receive a prison sentence.
Coss said a lien will be placed on Smalley’s pension interest to pay for court and prosecution costs, and she will be permanently forbidden from holding any public office or public employment in the State of Ohio.
Smalley is represented by Mt. Orab defense attorney Bruce Wallace.
In other court hearings Wednesday, a Hillsboro man was sentenced to a year and a half in prison after he pled guilty to domestic violence, a third-degree felony.
Jerry Eugene Olderham, 46, pled guilty to the charge on Wednesday and was sentenced immediately.
During the hearing, Olderham apologized to the court and to the victim.
Upon hearing that Olderham had been convicted of domestic violence before, Coss remarked, “You seem to have a penchant for engaging in violent conduct,” and issued the sentence.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.