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Elliott Co. officials expect clerk's guilty plea

An audit of the Elliott County Clerk's office says that despite warnings, criminal indictments and deficits, Reeda S. Ison won re-election twice and did not change her handling of public money.

At a special meeting of the fiscal court Thursday, Ison agreed to resign and plead guilty to official misconduct and misapplication of funds, according to Judge-Executive David Blair.

Ison, first elected in 1998, was indicted last year on charges of theft and abusing the public trust. She shuttered her office Tuesday and left a message on her office answering machine saying she had resigned.

State Auditor Crit Luallen's report on the clerk's 2007 finances, released Thursday, found that Ison was handling her own payroll and not paying state and federal withholding taxes. A county ordinance gives those duties to the county treasurer.

Elliott County's treasurer Trina Sartaine handled the payroll properly for the last half of 2007, according to the audit. But Sartaine said Ison took payroll authority back in 2008.

The office's cumulative account deficits, over seven years of audits, were more than $54,000, auditors said.

The state attorney general's office declined to comment on Ison's plea agreement. It will not be final until a guilty plea is entered in court. Ison's next court date is May 8.

The agreement says prosecutors would recommend a 12-month jail term and two years probation, provided Ison resigns, pleads guilty to 19 misdemeanor counts of misapplication of entrusted funds and 19 counts of official misconduct, and is barred from seeking public office again.

Ison's attorney, Paul Craft of Greenup, did not return phone calls from the Herald-Leader seeking comment.

The agreement also asked Ison to make restitution of $27,964, covering only 2004 through 2006. There was some question as to Ison's responsibility for the rest of the funds because a deputy clerk was charged with theft in 2002. If restitution is not paid, the state would seek a lien on Ison's property.

Blair, the judge-executive, was in the county treasurer's office Thursday afternoon making arrangements for a new clerk. He said he planned to appoint Sheila Blevins, the second-highest vote getter in the 2006 election.

State auditors plan to be in Elliott County on Friday to inventory the accounts, count license plates and decals, and prepare for a new clerk. The latest audit showed that in some sense, Ison was trying to catch up to previous debts. She paid $1,369 owed to the Elliott County ambulance service from 2005 — but that money should have been paid by Ison personally, not from 2007 fee money.

Ison also paid $2,786 in federal and state withholding taxes and interest for 2007, but she paid it from the 2008 fees account, also not allowed, the auditor's report said.

The audit also showed that Ison had been paid $188 more than allowed, and owed more than $7,000 in federal and state retirement withholdings. At a special meeting of the Elliott County Fiscal Court Thursday, County Clerk Reeda S. Ison agreed to resign and plead guilty to official misconduct and misapplication of entrusted funds, Judge-Executive David Blair said.

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