Kentucky

Audit raises possibility of further legal trouble for ex-Wayne County clerk

The former Wayne County clerk, who pleaded guilty to theft last year, may face further investigation based on an audit that found additional money unaccounted for during her tenure.

The audit also found that the one-time clerk, Melissa Turpin, improperly voided liens on several of her personal vehicles before she left office.

State Auditor Crit Luallen's office referred several findings in the report to the Kentucky State Police and state Attorney General's Office.

Turpin resigned last year and pleaded guilty after being charged with stealing nearly $140,000 from her office.

The charges were based on earlier audits that showed money missing from Turpin's office.

County clerk's offices take in money for a variety of things, such as selling license plates and recording deeds.

Turpin pleaded guilty to theft and abuse of public trust. Her plea deal called for a 10-year sentence, with all of it probated except 60 days in jail and 120 days on house arrest.

She also paid the county $139,986 — the amount she had taken in but failed to turn over to the county, according to the auditor's office.

The payment is cited as an issue in the new audit, which covered Jan. 1, 2009, to Oct. 20, when Turpin gave up the office.

That's because Turpin used $31,730 in money from the current fiscal year to pay what she owed from a prior fiscal year, the audit said.

The bottom line, the audit said, is that the office still had a deficit when Turpin quit.

Turpin needs to pay the office $11,512 to make up for $7,450 she took in while still in office but didn't put in the bank and to cover more than $3,000 in expenses that she didn't properly document, the audit said.

Among the other problems cited in the new audit, made public Friday, was that after Turpin collected money from people to title their vehicles, she went back the same day and voided the transactions.

That would have resulted in surplus cash that could have been taken. The transactions didn't show up on any reports, the audit found.

Turpin's actions placed the owners of the vehicles at risk, the audit said.

If they had been in an accident or had their licenses checked for any reason, it would have appeared they were driving without a valid title or registration, which is illegal, the audit said.

Auditors documented two cases in which Turpin voided title transactions, but it could have happened other times, the audit said.

Turpin also released liens on her own vehicles, the audit found.

The report noted it is illegal to enter incorrect information in the state computer system.

Turpin did not respond to the audit.

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