Former Clinton-Highland Fire District fiscal officer facing 20 felonies; no theft involved


By Jeff Gilliland -jgilliland@civitasmedia.com

A former fiscal officer with the Clinton-Highland Joint Fire District is facing 20 felony counts after racking up $7,355 in penalties and interest by failing to pay employee taxes for seven years, according to an audit of the fire district released Thursday by Auditor of State Dave Yost.

Former fiscal officer Sidney Clay withheld required employee income taxes from 2009 through 2015, but he allegedly did not properly submit the funds to the state, the city of Wilmington or the IRS. As a result, the district was charged $5,514 by the state and $1,841 by Wilmington in penalties and interest. The district, headquartered in New Vienna, is working with the IRS to determine the amount of penalties owed to the federal government, a news release said.

John Johnson, chief of the fire district, said Clay was the district’s original clerk and was employed there from 1996 until he resigned in January.

During the audit, the district paid the overdue tax withholdings to the state and Wilmington, and it is in the process of submitting payments to the IRS.

On Oct. 24, 2016, Clay was indicted on 20 fifth-degree felony counts of failure to remit state income taxes withheld from an employee. He resigned from his position two months later. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 30 in Clinton County Common Pleas Court.

Auditors issued a $7,355 finding for recovery against Clay for the penalties and interest charges. He paid $5,514 to the Ohio Department of Taxation on Aug. 26, 2016. The city of Wilmington waived the remaining $1,841, according to the news release.

A spokesperson with the state auditor’s office said Thursday that there was no theft of money.

“He did not keep the money. He just failed to pass it along to the appropriate authorities,” the spokesperson said.

The Clinton-Highland Joint Fire District serves parts of Penn and Union townships in Highland County and New Vienna, Green Township and part of Wayne Township in Clinton County.

“Negligence and poor training are the most common causes of financial penalties assessed to local governments,” Yost said in the release. “It appears both played a role in this fiscal officer’s repeated failure to carry out a fundamental duty.”

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.