Updated Tue, Sep 24, 2013 7:23 am
It took the jury a little more than an hour on Friday to determine the fate of Marilyn Sloan, who was accused of internal theft at the Southeastern Ohio Food Bank, a division of Hocking Athens Perry Community Action.
Sloan, 54, was the former food bank manager and was indicted on three charges — tampering with evidence, tampering with records and grand theft. A jury of eight women and four men found her not guilty of tampering with evidence and grand theft, but guilty of tampering with records.
“We are satisfied that the jury found Marilyn not guilty of tampering with evidence, grand theft and the dismissal of the forgery charge, but obviously we are disappointed in the finding of guilt on tampering with records,” Sarver said.
“After years of waiting, after going through several attorneys, I had the privilege of presenting Marilyn’s side of the story for the very first time,” he continued. “I appreciate Judge Wallace’s patience and allowing Marilyn the opportunity. I truly believe that Marilyn’s heart was always in the right place — to help Ohio and Hocking County’s hungry families and assist those in need.”
Throughout the day, jurors heard approximately five hours of testimony from Sloan. According to Sloan, this was the first opportunity Sloan had to give her side of the story.
During her testimony, Sloan placed the blame directly on Dick Stevens, who was her immediate director at the time the incidents occurred. Sloan consistently refuted Stevens’ testimony from Thursday, and said she did not have access to the system to change the invoices and said he was the one person who did.
Sloan named Stevens as the person who altered the invoices and requested she loan $6,000 to the food bank to start a secondary market food program to help the food bank rise from its deficit. However, when Stevens was asked about the secondary market food program, he denied knowing what it was.
The jury sat through three days of testimony with witnesses from both sides
According to Sloan, there were a lot of issues at the food bank over the years, and Stevens was aware they were happening, but turned his head or covered them up.
Sloan told jurors that she trusted Stevens because he was her mentor, her director and, at one time, a close friend. “Dick and I had an agreement that I would loan $6,000 to the (food) bank and when he was able to get it back to me, I would get it,” Sloan said.
When questioned why she deposited some checks into her personal bank account, she indicated she was directed to do so by Stevens for payment towards the $6,000 loan. When asked why she received cash back from some of the deposits, she implied that she gave the money to Stevens to keep the secondary market food program afloat.
Although one truck driver who worked at the food bank testified he never received money to have the trucks cleaned, Sloan told jurors that she often gave drivers $300 to have the trucks cleaned and inspected.
Truck driver Scott Bunthoff verified Sloan’s statement during his testimony, though.
According to Sarver, it was more than a $6,000 loan, and there were numerous times Sloan would pay cash for supplies or give drivers money for various reasons.
Friday’s witnesses for the defense included Norm Gary, a former HAPCAP employee; Bunthoff, a truck driver; Carla Saum, employee of the food bank; Gene Rushing, former maintenance worker at the food bank; David Lessor, a former warehouse employee; and Barbara Roundtree, a former senior food bank clerk for Meals on Wheels.
All witnesses were asked the same questions related to having knowledge of Sloan’s loan to the food bank, altered invoices, destruction of files, the financial status of the food bank and if they were familiar with the secondary market food program.
On several occasions, Sarver reminded witnesses they were under oath and said it was a criminal offense if they did not tell the truth.
During closing arguments, Hocking County Assistant Prosecutor William Archer reminded jurors to weigh all the facts.
“She’s not denying the facts that she received the checks, cashed them and received money back from some because she did it,” Archer said.
“She doesn’t deny her role and never brought it forward to the board because she is guilty,” he continued. “She chose to resign because she got caught!”
Archer reminded jurors that they heard testimony from many defense witnesses who disputed everything Sloan said during her testimony on Friday.
“You heard testimony from Tom Yaskoff stating that he recommended to her to sign over the checks to the food bank, and when asked if he was aware of her using personal funds for the food bank, he replied no,” Archer said.
“You heard Norm Gary testify that she only contacted him regarding legal fees,” he continued. “You heard Lisa Hamler-Fuggett and Roger Watson both testify there was never a meeting.” Archer continued to go through the long list of witnesses and reminded jurors of each testimony and how it differed from the story Sloan told in court Friday.
During Sarver’s closing arguments, he looked at the jurors and said, “Marilyn was charged with changing or altering records. Where’s the proof she did it? There are allegations and insinuations that she deleted, destroyed, and altered records. The state wants you to believe she changed the records. The state is alleging she stole from not only Hocking County, but nine other counties. Is she guilty of theft or is this something bigger?”
“This was a way for her to get reimbursed for the loan,” he said, referring to Sloan cashing or depositing the checks into her personal bank account. “She deposited the checks, but she was owed the money, and she never did it without talking with her supervisor, Dick Stevens. She got indicted with charges and no one contacted her to get her side of the story.”
Sloan will be sentenced within the next few weeks on the tampering with records charge. She could receive up to three years in prison, or probation since this is her first offense.