Ex-county worker gets probation for theft in office

Some customers received shutoff notices despite paying their bills.

Our I-Team dug into the records to first bring you this story, revealing how local residents were threatened with having their water shut off because of the actions of one former Montgomery County employee.

Former Montgomery County Environmental Services Department employee Rozalin A. Smith stole more than $12,000 collected for water bills, causing some residents to be notified that their service would be cut off.

On Wednesday, Smith was sentenced to five years’ community control and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service for theft in office, a third-degree felony. Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof also ordered Smith to pay $12,725 in restitution plus court costs and a $250 supervision fee. Smith pleaded guilty Dec. 16.

Explore>> Customers who paid bills tipped county officials

The 52-year-old Smith, a Trotwood resident also known as Rosalin, didn’t say anything on her own behalf. Smith’s attorney, Anthony Cicerco, said that there were extenuating circumstances.

“She had a loss in her family which reduced household income dramatically, and she was in a pinch financially, supporting her family and her kids,” Cicero said. “(She) was putting a lot of money back after it was taken after certain bills were paid and just got caught into a round-robin situation… . It was a situation where she couldn’t keep up after awhile.”

Dankof noted that the pre-sentence report recommended community control. “Frankly, in reviewing the report, I’m completely comfortable with the recommendations contained in the report,” the judge said.

An internal investigation obtained by the I-Team in early 2015 showed that the money — all cash — was collected by Smith, but didn’t make it into the county’s coffers. That led to at least eight people receiving water shutoff notices weeks after paying their bill.

Smith worked for the county from 1987 until she was put on paid administrative leave in January 2015 and then resigned a month later. She made $41,898 in salary in 2014, according to county records.

Prosecutors alleged that in her job as a customer service specialist, Smith took money from customers who paid their water and solid waste tipping fees between Aug. 20, 2013 and Dec. 24, 2014.

There were no victim impact statements during court Wednesday, but county administrator Joe Tuss was irked last year.

“The actions of this employee created significant inconvenience for these folks,” he said then, and promised to review procedures to stop it from happening again. “It is something I’m upset about, and it makes me angry.”

Marshall Lillard was one of the customers whose water would have been turned off had he not returned from vacation when he did and found a delinquent notice in the mail. Lillard said last year that he remembered paying the bill in person and seeing Smith there by herself.

“She took the money. She gave me a receipt. I knew I paid the bill,” said Lillard, who wished county officials would have told him what happened sooner. “Wouldn’t you want to know what’s going on when you pay your money out for a water bill and get a disconnect notice?”

Cicero said most of the restitution will be made next week and wrapped up a short time after that. He added that Smith took her vacation pay — nearly $3,000 — after she resigned and put it toward restitution: “She’s been apologetic and up front since Day 1.”

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