BROWN COUNTY, Ind. – A former county clerk’s sticky fingers filched office supplies in the waning days of her term, landing her in legal trouble again, police say.
Former Brown County Clerk Kathy L. Smith faces two felony counts after being accused of stealing office supplies and other items totaling more than $1,000. Smith is charged with theft and official misconduct.
Brown previously faced multiple charges, including official misconduct of a public servant, deception and theft, in connection with a separate investigation. In that case, she was accused of using county funds to make purchases for herself. That case is still working its way through the court system.
Smith lost the Republican primary in 2022 during her bid for reelection.
The latest investigation began on Jan. 3. Investigators had received information from other employees at the clerk’s office that Smith had taken office supplies home with her at the end of December.
One of the employees, after talking to the county sheriff about the case, marked certain items in the office so they could be tracked. They included labels, spiral notebooks, pads of paper, bags of rubber bands and highlighters, among other items.
Another employee provided investigators with a list of office supplies and noted that 14 items were missing. The employee calculated the value of the missing supplies at $256.02.
Employees told police that Smith was taking “a large amount of office supplies” out of the office over the last two weeks of the year, even though her term ended on Dec. 31, 2022. Smith “consistently carried several bags of items with her every time she left work” over those last two weeks, the employees said. One employee reported seeing Smith take a label maker and four boxes of labels.
Several “Brown County Election” bags were also missing.
An employee recalled Smith had bought a small refrigerator with a chrome front in 2020 to replace an older one in the office. However, Smith later brought the old refrigerator back and said the new one was stored in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center.
The old refrigerator eventually died in 2022, and Smith bought a new one with a white front. When an employee asked what happened to the one with the chrome front, Smith told the employee she’d returned it.
Smith paid $200.99 for the refrigerator, which is still unaccounted for, according to court documents.
Smith printed “well over 200 pages of documents that were for the Fruitdale Fire Department,” according to court documents. The fire chief said she was facing disciplinary action for that, because she used county resources to type up minutes from meetings for the department.
Investigators obtained surveillance video from the last part of 2022 that showed Smith carrying items out to her car and her husband’s vehicle. At one point, she had the trunk so full, she could barely get it to close. On another occasion, police said, a box fell out of the trunk while she tried to shut it.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for Smith’s home; a search on Jan. 9, 2023, turned up a single Brown County Election bag. Investigators didn’t find additional office items on the property.
Police then learned Smith had a storage facility just outside of Nashville, Indiana. After getting a search warrant, police located the missing office supplies, including the ones marked by an employee so they could be tracked.
The search also turned up two boxes of three-ring binders; the boxes had shipping labels for the Brown County Clerk’s Office and were from Office Depot. Other binders appeared to belong to the Brown County Election Board; the total for all the binders was about $384.
Investigators found the label maker and four boxes of labels, valued at $175.79. More of the Brown County Election bags were also at the storage facility, police said.
Police arrested Smith on Jan. 10, 2023. Investigators had talked to her on the previous day; she said she’d only had one of the election bags and didn’t know about the office supplies. She insisted she hadn’t stolen anything from the office. She also denied knowing anything about a storage shed, but police told her what they’d found inside, which included “Kathy Smith for Clerk” and “Kathy Smith for Coroner” signs that clearly distinguished who kept items there.
When asked why she had the office supplies, Smith claimed she’d gotten them to replace items she’d bought for the office herself. Typically, police noted, employees would turn in receipts and receive reimbursement for those types of purchases.
“It is not typical of a county employee to purchase items using county funds to replace personally purchased items, especially with no paperwork for the Auditor’s Office, nor is it policy,” the investigator wrote in the probable cause affidavit. “Normal procedure is to purchase items, turn in the receipts to the Auditor’s Office and seek reimbursement. It seemed clear to me that Smith was trying to come up with an excuse.”
Former staff members said it was typical for Smith to take a few items from the office during her tenure as clerk. However, the “the last two weeks of 2022 were more blatant,” according to court documents.
Investigators said the office supplies, the missing refrigerator the binders and the label maker and labels were purchased with $1,016.80 in county money. The amount put Smith over the threshold for a felony.
Smith had an initial hearing on Jan. 12, according to court records. A trial is scheduled for March.