CINCINNATI - Former Arlington Heights Mayor's Court Clerk Donna Covert entered the legal system Wednesday to begin answering charges that she took tens of thousands of dollars in cash paid for speeding fines.
Covert turned herself in to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, was fingerprinted, photographed and released on her own recognizance.
She'll be arraigned at a later date on charges of theft in office, tampering with records and unauthorized use of property between July 2007, and February 2010. Her attorney, Mike Allen, said she denies the accusations.
Her daughter, Laura Jarvis, was indicted on the same charges, and turned herself in Friday afternoon. She was also released on her own recognizance. She will also be arraigned at a later date.
New details emerged Wednesday about Covert's career and that of her husband, Curtis Dale Covert.
Donna Covert was an Elmwood Place Auxiliary Police Officer from March 1988 to October 1992. During that time she received several letters of commendation for her work in the village. She was even nominated for the Thomas Oberschmidt Award for police excellence. Her work in Arlington Heights began after that with jobs that included Clerk of Courts, Payroll Clerk, Mayor's Secretary and Human Resources.
Curtis Dale served on the Elmwood Place Police Department for a longer period of time from April 1983 to May 1991, when he was hired in Arlington Heights. He stayed with that department for several years. At one point he was one of four officers named in a harassment lawsuit filed by the late Arlington Heights Councilmember Roland Heyne, Jr. It was settled out-of-court for $97,000 in 2002.
As the indictments against Donna Covert and Laura Jarvis were being announced on Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Taxation filed a personal income tax lien of $664.15 against the couple in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. It's not clear whether that filing was related to the criminal charges.
Meanwhile, both Arlington Heights and Reading were buzzing over comments by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters that he thinks the Village of Arlington Heights should be dissolved and merged into the City of Reading because of the theft-in-office scandal. He theorized that Arlington Heights police patrols on I-75 were simply a speed trap to pay village operating expenses.
"This is not the reason for government," Deters said. "If there was a reason to run speed traps like this except to fund government jobs, it might make sense, but it appears that it is the only reason."
That drew an immediate reaction from Arlington Heights Police Chief Ken Harper.
"Our wonderful little village is doing just fine and as far as I know has no plans to merge with anyone anytime soon and will not dissolve because of the dishonest actions of two individuals," he wrote in a e-mailed statement.
Chief Harper said that since he was appointed in late 2010, the Clerk of Courts office has been completely overhauled with a complete system of checks and balances.
Reading has provided fire and EMS service to Arlington Heights for four-and-a-half years, according to Mayor Robert "Bo" Bemmes, but he said it's a little inappropriate to talk in-depth about the matter right now.
"I feel that due to the fact that Arlington Heights hasn't contacted us means they're not quite ready either," he said.
Bemmes said the city is open-minded to any way of doing things better, but added it would take a lot of study and support from residents of both municipalities before any further shared-services or merger could go forward.
"To my knowledge it would take a vote of the people," he said. "For me to get out and push and promote it, a of of research and date and conversation would have to take place and I would have to be convinced that it was best for the residents of both communities."
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