Mayor, clerk face numerous charges

-A A +A

Cruse, Hornback indicted by grand jury

By Linda Ireland

A six-month long investigation by Kentucky State Police has led to the indictments of Hodgenville Mayor Terry L. Cruse and City Clerk MaDonna Hornback.
City Hall was shut down on June 28 when troopers served a search warrant on the premises. Numerous financial records, ordinance books, minute books and computers were taken, according to previous statements by Hornback. The clerk has said she had difficulty supplying financial information at city council meetings due to the missing material.
Monday, a LaRue County grand jury reviewed the investigation, with KSP Detective Forest Winchester of the Special Investigations Branch, providing evidence.
Cruse, 56, of Hodgenville, was charged with nine counts of abuse of public trust; theft by unlawful taking; two counts of campaign contribution restrictions/expense limits; and two counts of second-degree forgery.
Cruse, who is in his second term as mayor, is accused of unlawfully using the fuel credit card issued for vehicles on the city’s fleet account on nine occasions in 2012 and 2013; taking funds valued at between $500 and $10,000 between Nov. 16, 2011, and June 5, 2013; twice unlawfully accepting a candidate cash contribution exceeding $50 during his campaign for LaRue County sheriff; and twice falsely completing an election finance statement.
Hornback, who has been clerk since 2007, is charged with 54 counts of abuse of public trust; and theft by unlawful taking.
She is accused of unlawfully using the fuel credit card issued for vehicles on the city’s fleet account on 54 occasions between March 2012 and April 2013; and of taking funds valued at between $500 and $10,000 between Nov. 16, 2011 and June 5, 2013.
The charges are class D felonies.
“The first thing to note is they are both presumed innocent in these proceedings until (found guilty) in trial, said Commonwealth Attorney Terry Geoghegan, who will prosecute the case.
Geoghegan characterized the charges as “misappropriating public funds.”
The alleged theft charges involved the mayor and clerk claiming expenses for use of their private vehicles at a rate of 55 cents per mile instead of the state rate of 47 to 50 cents per mile (per city policy). The total was more than $500 for each of them, he added.
According to state law, a public servant who is entrusted with public money or property by reason of
holding public office or employment is guilty of abuse of public trust when he intentionally deals with the public money or property as his own and fails to make required payment or disposition.
Abuse of public trust is a Class D felony if the value of the public money or property is less than $10,000.
A conviction disqualifies the offender from holding another public office.
Mayor Cruse said the grand jury “did not hear both sides of the story.”
“It’s a one-sided thing,” he said. “The grand jury does not hear a defense. We did ask to talk but they would not let us.”
Grand jury sessions are not open to the public or media. The names of those who made the original complaints against Cruse and Hornback have not been released.
“The Local Rules of LaRue Circuit Court provide that the Commonwealth must provide discovery (Editor’s note: in this case, the complaint) to the defendant 45 days after arraignment,” said Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Whitney Meredith.
“Arraignment of Mr. Cruse and Ms. Hornback is Jan. 6, so discovery will be provided and filed with the court 45 days after the arraignment date. All evidence presented to the grand jury ... will be public record at that point. A pretrial and trial date will be set on Jan. 6 as well, and the Commonwealth will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law, just like we would any other case in LaRue Circuit Court.”    
City Hall will continue to be “open for business,” as the case progresses, said Cruse, adding that he had called council members and explained the situation to them.
“I’m going to continue as mayor,” he said. “I won’t run away – and neither will MaDonna.”
Ron Mather is the attorney for Cruse and Hornback.
They were booked in the LaRue County Detention Center for a short time Tuesday morning. They each posted a $9,500 cash or property bond and were released.
Cruse said he would plead not guilty at the arraignment. Hornback has not made a public statement.
The indictment of a person by a grand jury is an accusation only and the person is innocent until and unless proven guilty.