Returned cash led to charge for retired deputy

FREMONT After 27 years with the Sandusky County Sheriff's office, Mark Harman decided to hang up his
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

FREMONT

After 27 years with the Sandusky County Sheriff's office, Mark Harman decided to hang up his badge.

The 49-year-old agreed to help train former Sandusky County Emergency Management Agency director Brad Lawrence to take his place at the helm of the department's civil office.

He collected his remaining sick, vacation and longevity pay.

And before he punched the clock for the last time, Sheriff David Gangwer said Harman deposited more than $20,000 into the civil office's bank account, allegedly returning three years worth of stolen dollars to the department.

Gangwer said Lawrence discovered the large deposit soon after he took over after Harman's retirement. Lawrence called a meeting with Gangwer when he could not find receipts for the deposit.

"Well, right away that raised red flags for us," Gangwer said.

Gangwer assigned Capt. Jim Consolo to investigate. He said he discovered Harman siphoned $25,500 from cash entering the civil office from sheriff's sales in three years, and attempted to return the money before he retired.

It is not clear how Harman spent the money, but Gangwer said the former deputy made no extravagant purchases.

The sheriff said he was disappointed by the discovery.

He credited Harman with bringing the civil office into the 21st century with technology updates. He also said he considered Harman a friend.

"He did a lot of good things for us," Gangwer said. "But he's not above the law."

Gangwer said he met with Sandusky County prosecutor Thomas Stierwalt to discuss criminal charges. Harman was indicted on two felony charges of theft in late June. If convicted of the charges, he could be sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay up to $15,000 in fines.

Harman's attorney, Jon Ickes, and Stierwalt did not return calls seeking comment.

Gangwer said that in his 43 years with the sheriff's office, nothing like this has ever happened. He said changes have been made to ensure that it won't happen again. He banned cash as a form of payment at the civil office; all transactions must now be by check or money order.

He also asked state auditors to review records at the civil office and offer advice on how to make operations more secure and efficient. Gangwer said he did not believe additional funds are missing.

"If there is anything else we can add or do, we're sure going to do it," Gangwer said.