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An investigation that eventually led to numerous felony charges levied in December against Hodgenville Mayor Terry Cruse and City Clerk MaDonna Hornback stemmed from a complaint filed by a city council member, according to an affidavit for a search warrant in the case.
The Kentucky State Police Drug Enforcement-Special Investigations West branch received a complaint April 23, 2012, from Councilman Jim Phelps. Phelps said a member of the LaRue County Sheriff’s Department complained to him about seeing Cruse putting fuel into his personal vehicle at Circle K in Hodgenville using the city’s Fleet Fuel Card.
According to the report, once Phelps received the complaint, he talked to Circle K manager Jenny Heath about activity with the gas card.
“Manager Heath advised him that the behavior had been occurring for a long time,” according to the three-page warrant, which became public Monday. Additionally, Heath said Hornback was using the fleet card to put fuel in her personal vehicle.
It was then Phelps asked Kentucky State Police to investigate. Cruse is charged with nine counts of abuse of public trust and Hornback with 54 counts. All are Class D felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison on each count.
Cruse said in a statement it came as no surprise to him regarding the origination of the complaint.
“We will defend vigorously at the appropriate time in court that such a gas card usage was justified and in no manner improper,” he said.
According to the indictments, Cruse used the card for personal expenses from June 10, 2012, to Feb. 18, 2013; and Hornback, from March 25, 2012, to April 9, 2013.
KSP interviewed Phelps and Heath and obtained receipts and video surveillance from January 2012 through April 2013. According to the warrant, receipts and video were provided showing Cruse and Hornback had sons who “used the fuel card on multiple occasions.”
In his statement, Cruse said any use of the gas card by his son or Hornback’s son, who he states in the release are city employees, “was under appropriate and justified circumstances, related to city business and city business related matters.”
Financial records were obtained from Wright Express, financial provider for the fleet card. Bank records also were obtained for the city from Lincoln National Bank and Magnolia Bank for review, according to the warrant.
According to documents, “the findings detail that several irregularities have been noted in the forty-three accounts maintained by the city.” Among the reported irregularities are multiple large inter-account transfers, payment to multiple credit cards and utility payments to six different service providers, the documents said.
Cruse said the matter of account transfers has been explained “thoroughly” to KSP and its auditor.
“All of these transfers were in the proper and orderly conduct of city business and required moves from one account to another,” he said in the statement.
The warrant was signed June 26, 2013. Two days later, a search warrant was executed on Hodgenville City Hall with computers, files and electronic communications among the items seized.
Cruse and Hornback are scheduled for a court appearance Monday. A June 9 court date has been set.
Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at 270-505-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.