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Ex-employee accused of stealing money from Pasco County Clerk's Office

DADE CITY — A former employee of the Pasco County Clerk's Office was arrested Thursday on charges she stole thousands of dollars from the government agency.

Brandy N. Hartz, 23, of Dade City is charged with one count of grand theft. She was fired Jan. 14.

Paula O'Neil, Pasco's elected clerk, said Hartz worked at the traffic payment windows in the Dade City Courthouse. Beginning last fall, O'Neil said, Hartz began processing cash transactions, such as speeding ticket payments, by taking the money, creating a receipt but then undoing the receipt in the computer system.

The total Hartz pocketed, according to O'Neil: about $8,000.

The theft came to light during a routine quarterly report on finances for the months of October, November and December. That's when officials noticed the undone receipts.

"When we saw the quantity over a quarter, then it was time to do an investigation," O'Neil said.

She said further digging revealed a few more such transactions tied to Hartz before October.

The Clerk's Office has not recovered the money, but O'Neil said she will seek restitution.

Dade City police arrested Hartz but did not release any documents, citing an ongoing investigation. She was booked Thursday into the Pasco County jail.

Hartz was hired at the Clerk's Office part time in March 2005 as a Pasco High student in a work-study program, according to her personnel file. She became full time that June and held positions in various departments, most recently the criminal traffic division.

Three times in her seven years, customers wrote and mailed notes praising her customer service.

"You really helped me get the facts at a stressful time. I feel better already!" wrote a man dealing with a traffic issue.

Recently Hartz requested, and was approved for, a transfer to the Clerk's Office call center, which would have raised her hourly pay from $12.60 to $13.56. But the transfer was voided after she failed to show up for work three straight days last week. The office then sent her a certified letter terminating her for "job abandonment."

O'Neil sent a message to her staff Thursday morning about Hartz's arrest. She addressed it "Dear Teammates" and called Hartz a "former employee."

"I fully support law enforcement and the State Attorney's Office in prosecution of the case to the fullest extent of the law. While this situation is disheartening, this in no way reflects on you or your position," O'Neil wrote. "We have a great team here and I, like you, have zero tolerance for employees breaking the law."

In an interview, she said the office's internal procedures were being reviewed and its own investigation is ongoing.

"We certainly don't promote that kind of behavior, which is why we took quick action," she said.

Ex-employee accused of stealing money from Pasco County Clerk's Office 01/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 7:12pm]
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