Updated Fri, Sep 20, 2013 9:55 am
It took approximately two hours to seat a jury of eight women and four men for the Marilyn Sloan trial, which began Wednesday in Hocking County Common Pleas Court.
Sloan is on trial for tampering with evidence, tampering with records and theft from the Second Harvest Food Bank, a division of the Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Program.
She is accused of altering and destroying invoices and records that implicate she stole thousands of dollars from the food bank in 2010 while employed as the food bank manager.
Hocking County Assistant Prosecutor William Archer is expected to call four witnesses to testify, while defense attorney Jason Sarver has a list of 23 witnesses to testify on behalf of his client.
Archer presented an overview of the case to jurors during his opening statement in hopes of reaching a guilty verdict.
He explained the process of using invoices in the accounting department at HAPCAP and said Sloan altered and destroyed evidence while depositing numerous checks from Care United Methodist Outreach into her own personal bank accounts.
Yet Sarver painted a very different picture for the jury and claimed Sloan is innocent and was only doing as instructed by former HAPCAP Food and Nutrition Division Director Dick Stevens.
“Marilyn claimed from day one she was innocent,” Sarver said during his opening statement. “She is accused of stealing from our food bank, our own community action program. If you believe the allegations, find her guilty, but if you have any doubt, then find her innocent.”
Sarver says his client made numerous loans to the food pantry during her employment and requested receipts from Stevens, but never received any.
He also alleges that Stevens made a request to the HAPCAP board to use secondary market food in order to save money, but was denied. Sarver indicated Stevens found a way to go against board policy and had Sloan purchase secondary market food.
According to Sarver, Sloan took $6,000 from her husband’s severance pay and used it as start up money in order to purchase the secondary market food, all at the request and discretion of Stevens.
Jurors listened intently as Archer and Sarver both presented their case.
Doug Stanley was called as the first witness for the prosecution. He gave a brief outline of his duties as executive director and of how HAPCAP and the food bank are funded. Archer also requested Stanley give an overview of the accounting department and the process of using invoices.
When asked about food pantries purchasing food from the food bank and who the checks should be written to, Stanley replied, “Checks should be made to HAPCAP or Southeastern Ohio Food Bank.”
During Stanley’s testimony, he indicated that no checks or cash can be accepted at the Logan facility and there was a problem with numerous checks being paid to the order of Sloan and a lot of invoices were altered at the same time.
According to Stanley, this is not the normal practice of HAPCAP and the board would never allow such transactions.
Once it was discovered that checks were being mailed to and cashed by Sloan, Stevens sent a memo to Stanley requesting the termination of Sloan, but wanted to allow her the opportunity to resign. Sloan resigned from her position on July 15, 2010.
The problem resurfaced when HAPCAP received a call from the Care United Methodist Outreach, who had a request from United Way to provide proof of purchasing food with grant money that United Way had provided to the outreach program.
David Graham, executive director of Care United Methodist Outreach Food Pantry in Vinton County, told jurors he did not think anything of writing the checks out in Sloan’s name, as that is the way it was from the beginning, even as far back as 2007.
Sloan is on trial only for checks and invoices dating back to 2010.
The evidence brought forth during the first day of the trial indicates Sloan could have been altering invoices, accepting checks and depositing them in her own personal bank accounts for a much longer time than she’s currently accused of.
When asked about his impression of how this could happen, Stanley replied, “We were going on an older antiquated system, and the invoices could be easily altered. And we had someone in a position to be able to make changes and that could also alter the paperwork.”
Sarver indicated during his opening statement that the food bank was in financial trouble and Sloan was merely trying to help by lending money to the facility on numerous occasions.
However, Stanley pointed out that the food bank normally operates at a deficit, but the board would never allow or accept a loan from an employee, no matter what the case.
“The board will do whatever it takes to make sure the food bank survives, but this never would have happened,” Stanley said, referring to Sloan’s supposed decision to lend money.
During Stanley and Graham’s testimony on Wednesday, each were shown several invoices and copies of checks and asked to identify them. Both indicated they were invoices and checks made payable to Sloan. The invoices were determined by Stanley to have been altered.
Day two of the trial gets underway starting at 8 a.m. today with Dick Stevens expected to be called as the state’s first witness.