Former engineer’s staffer guilty of altering husband’s pay sheet

LISBON – A former administrative employee in the county engineer’s office was found guilty of altering her husband’s payroll records to increase his compensation while they both worked for the county.

Christina N. Phillips, 33, state Route 172, Lisbon, pleaded no contest this week to a charge of tampering with records, a misdemeanor, and was found guilty by Columbiana County Municipal Court Judge Mark Frost. She was sentenced to two years probation, fined $250, required to perform 20 hours of community service and ordered to make restitution to the engineer’s office in the amount of $459.

County Engineer Bert Dawson said Mrs. Phillips worked as an administrative assistant in his office from 2005 until Aug. 17, 2012. Her husband, Jordan Phillips, worked as summer employee from 2004 until Aug. 8, 2012, in the county water and sewer department, which is under the operational control of the engineer’s office.

As an administrative assistant, Dawson said Mrs. Phillips’ duties included processing payroll and benefits. At some point last summer, Dawson said, another employee advised him of a possible discrepancy in the payroll records as it related to Mr. Phillips.

“When the issue came up we asked the state auditor to investigate and they did, and they turned their findings over to the prosecutor’s office,” Dawson said.

County Prosecutor Robert Herron said the special state audit determined Mrs. Phillips altered her husband’s payroll records to include hours he did not work, resulting in Mr. Phillips being overpaid by $459. Misdemeanor theft involves sums of less than $1,000.

Although the court records stated the crime occurred between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2012, Herron said the record-tampering only happened over several weeks and not the entire summer. He said Mrs. Phillips quit when confronted about the discrepancy.

Herron confirmed the phantom work hours that were added to Mr. Phillips’ payroll records occurred during the time of day when he was actually at United Local High School football practices. Mr. Phillips serves as an assistant coach and was allowed to work a flexible summer schedule so he could attend practice.

Herron said there was no evidence Mr. Phillips was aware of his wife’s activities.

The charges were filed and disposed of all in the same day instead of possibly being dragged out over weeks and months, and Herron said this was done after consulting with Mrs. Phillips’ attorney.