Auditor Yost, Legislators Announce Bill to Amend Theft in Office Law
Columbus - Legislation announced today by Auditor of State Dave Yost and Sen. Steve Wilson would stiffen the penalties for public employees convicted of theft in office and alleviate some of the financial burden for their victims.
Senate Bill 268, introduced today by Sen. Wilson, would establish first- and second-degree felony offense levels for theft in office charges, mirroring the existing statute for the separate charge of theft. Rep. Robert Cupp is expected to introduce companion legislation soon.
Current law limits theft in office to a third-degree felony, carrying a sentence of between nine months and three years in prison. Accordingly, a public official or employee convicted of stealing any amount over $150,000 – even millions – faces the same penalties as someone who steals $7,500.
“Theft in office is a severe crime that warrants an equally severe punishment,” Auditor Yost said. “I thank Senator Wilson and Representative Cupp for joining me in this effort to address a glaring flaw in the statute.”
Under the proposal, a theft of between $150,000 and $750,000 would fall into a second-degree felony threshold punishable by two to eight years in prison. Any theft of more than $750,000 would merit a first-degree felony holding a sentence of three to 11 years in prison.
The bill also addresses the costs local governments pay for forensic audits – examinations that measure the extent of a theft. For the most part, the law prevents judges from ordering offenders to reimburse entities for the audit costs, which sometimes outweigh the losses from the theft itself.
S.B. 268 would add language to the theft in office statute permitting courts to include the costs of an audit in a restitution order when the victim is a public entity.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.