LAKE STATION | A former city court clerk is being asked to pay back $37,182 for unapproved leave payments and the cost of an audit, the State Board of Accounts has determined.
The state audit released Monday said Miranda Brakley, the stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist, owes $13,160 for unapproved payment of leave, $664 for bond collections not received or deposited and $23,358 for state examination costs.
The state credited Brakley for an additional $15,800 she owed but turned in on Dec. 10, the audit stated.
Brakley told those conducting the audit that the missing $15,800 bond collections had been in a bank bag inside a box inside her personal vehicle.
The money had been there without her knowledge since she had been dismissed, Brakley told auditors.
Scott King, Brakley's attorney, said his client doesn't owe the city or state any money.
"She hasn't done anything wrong," King said.
King has filed a response on Brakley's behalf to the State Board of Accounts.
King said he also has filed a notice of claim against the city stating Brakley was wrongfully terminated.
"At the end of the day, the city is going to owe her money for wrongly firing her," King said.
King, in his response to the state, said city employees had moved boxes into Brakley's car on her last day of employment and she had assumed they were her personal property.
Once Brakley found the missing funds, she turned them in, King said.
Charles Pride, an office supervisor for the State Board of Accounts, said the financial errors were discovered in the routine annual audit of Lake Station.
"Whenever we find some irregularities in a department audit we will choose to do a special report," Pride said.
He said the report will be forwarded to the state's attorney general.
"There's a possibility of criminal charges, but that's up the the attorney general who will handle this from this point forward," Pride said.
King said he believes his client has been caught up in the middle of drama between the City Council and City Judge Christopher Anderson.
"From all reports, Ms. Brakley was a pawn in a political battle between the presiding city judge and the other branches of government in Lake Station," King said.
Anderson has maintained that the issues with the court surfaced when on June 7 he fired the mayor's stepdaughter who had been a clerk under his supervision.
Soderquist has continued to deny that allegation.
Those issues have included a lawsuit filed by Anderson against the City Council after officials removed two of his clerks and action considered by the City Council to abolish the City Court.
The City Council reconsidered and met recently with Anderson to discuss issues it has with the court, including dwindling revenue. Neither Anderson nor Soderquist could be reached for comment.