A longtime county official in Eastern Kentucky has fired two daughters who worked for her after learning they might have been involved in alleged thefts from the office.
Carol Sue Mills, who has been Martin County clerk for 23 years, said she thinks that one of her daughters took money because of a drug problem and that the other was trying to help her.
Mills said she decided to talk publicly this week about the issue because rumors had been swirling around the county, and she needed to let residents know what she knew.
"I've tried to be a very good person and a very good clerk," Mills said Tuesday. "This has devastated me."
Mills said she learned from state auditors who are checking her books that about $20,000 is missing, and criminal activity appeared to be involved.
Mills said she fired her daughters because she didn't want them handling public money.
County clerks collect various types of fees, such as the fees to license a vehicle, for state and local government.
She fired one daughter two weeks ago and the other earlier, Mills said.
The two, Tonya Mills and Tammy Hairston, have not been charged with any crime related to money missing from the office.
However, Carol Sue Mills said she expects state police will investigate after the audit is complete and probably present evidence to a grand jury.
Auditors were doing a routine annual accounting at Mills' office when they found the problem. When auditors find potential thefts, they tell officeholders at the time, rather than waiting until the audit is done.
The audit of Mills' office could be finished next month, said Stephenie Steitzer, spokeswoman for state Auditor Adam Edelen. She said she could not discuss details at this point.
However, Steitzer said the office appreciates Mills' help in the audit.
Mills said her daughter Tonya is getting help for a drug problem.
Both daughters live near her and had worked for her since she became clerk. Learning that they might have been involved in thefts and having to fire them has caused a hurt similar to losing her husband to cancer four years ago, Mills said.
"I cry all the time," she said.
The issue has strained their relationship, but Mills said her daughters understand why she fired them.
"It will get easier," she said.