MONROE COUNTY, Ind. - The state of Indiana and the Attorney General’s office has received a hefty civil judgment in the case of a former township trustee accused of misusing taxpayer dollars.
On June 18, Monroe Circuit Court Judge E. Michael Hoff signed a $362,115.97 judgment against Heather Cohee, the former Benton Township trustee in Monroe County.
“Former Trustee Heather Cohee has had an opportunity to explain and justify the undocumented charges paid by Benton Township but has not done so,” read the judgment.
The Attorney General’s office said the civil judgment amount against Cohee is among the top six judgments entered against defendants in State Board of Accounts audit lawsuits since January 2009.
The judgment amount is more than three times the amount of the financial loss suffered by the state, according to the document
“When elected officials violate the public trust and embezzle taxpayers’ money, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office will aggressively pursue civil prosecution to recover public funds. Having obtained this treble damages judgment, we will initiate collections against this defendant to obtain any financial assets and reimburse the public treasury,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney Wednesday.
The Call 6 Investigators recently reported the State Board of Accounts found undocumented payments including credit card purchases for a gym membership, gas and food.
Cohee resigned in March 2012 amid criticism that she hired her husband and daughter to perform tens of thousands of dollars of work for the township without proper documentation.
She is also facing criminal charges for theft and official misconduct and is expected in court for a pretrial conference July 18.
Cohee released a response to the State Board of Accounts, disputing some of the allegations.
"The gym membership was for every Benton Township employee and family member that wanted it,” read the statement. “You will find that the board passed it in the monthly meeting. The deal with the gym was that anyone who wanted to use it would come in and add to my membership."
Current trustee Michelle Bright told the State Board of Accounts the township continues to deal with financial and legal ramifications as a result of Cohee’s actions, including issues with the Internal Revenue Service and severe revenue shortfalls.
“We estimate it will take several years before the township is able to fully recover,” read the statement from Trustee Bright.