The City of Hartshorne and $2 million are at the center of one Oklahoma’s biggest embezzlement cases in our history.
A lot of people in Hartshorne said they are angry about the situation but relieved they can finally start over and help their city get back to normal.
“It’s going to take years to recover from the amount of money that was taken,” said City Councilor Sheryl Baker.
The City of Hartshorne has been fighting financial troubles for years.
Baker said the city roads need to be fixed, the pool hasn't been open for three years and a local cemetery was so overgrown that the city couldn't afford to cut the grass.
“We were down to one weed eater for a city our size, and the questions came down to why, and they just said we were broke,” Baker said.
State Auditor Gary Jones discovered more than $1 million of missing utility deposits dating back to 2009, and he said it could date back farther.
Another $600,000 was not deposited between 2014 and 2016.
“Evidently what we had were some folks that had been with the City for a long time have not deposited money in the proper accounts and appear to have put that in their own pockets,” Jones said.
Credit card statements in the audit showed that the former city clerk Dawn Dunkin charged more than $80,000 in personal purchases. According to the report, she charged her family's phone bills, clothes from Buckle, a Michael Kors purse and even a vacation for 14 people to Mexico.
“It should not have happened this long. It should’ve been caught far sooner than this,” Jones said. “You’re supposed to be making deposits every single day. We had months where there were only three deposits made.”
But city council members like Ashley Faulkner hope they can find a way to move forward.
“It’s going to be an uphill, it’s going to be a lot of years before we recover,” she said.
The City has started working with the state emergency management and FEMA to see if they can start getting some funding soon.
As for the people responsible, the audit was passed along to the attorney general and charges are pending.
View the full state audit here.