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Forensic auditors say $216,211 missing from Safety Harbor bank accounts

SAFETY HARBOR — More than $215,000 vanished from the city's bank accounts in the last year JoAnne Ryan headed up the finance department, forensic auditors have found.

Most of it was cash.

That's more than twice the amount of the roughly $100,000 that authorities previously thought was missing.

And it dwarfs the nearly $13,000 in personal charges on city credit cards that originally came to light and led to Ryan's dismissal as finance director Aug. 20.

Ryan, 49, originally was charged with grand theft and accused of making more than $15,000 in personal charges on the city's credit cards since April 2007, most in connection with a basketball team on which her daughters played.

Ryan has pleaded not guilty.

Last month, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office stiffened the charge against her from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony when it became apparent the amount was between $20,000 and $100,000.

"The city provided the state attorney with enough information to have Ms. Ryan charged with first-degree felony grand theft and we expect that they will prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law,'' Mayor Andy Steingold said.

First-degree felony grand theft is anything more than $100,000.

In the latest results from delving into the 2007-08 books, accountants found $216,211 missing and numerous inconsistencies. For example:

• Between Sept. 27, 2007, and Oct. 3, 2007, $1,273 in cash was collected from the recreation department and the library, yet just $368 was deposited.

• On June 4, 2008, $1,986 in cash was collected from the recreation department and the library, but only $37 in cash was deposited.

Ronnie Crider, Ryan's lawyer, was unaware of the city's findings until a reporter called.

"That's news to me,'' he said. "The state hasn't alleged anything close to that (amount) at this point. They're alleging a theft of between $20,000 and $100,000.''

Assistant State Attorney Gregory Groger could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Ryan was the city's finance director from 1992 to 2008.

Her next pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 21.

The city's audit is scheduled to be completed within the next two months.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Forensic auditors say $216,211 missing from Safety Harbor bank accounts 04/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 8:47pm]

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