Tina Harnois, 40, the former program manager of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company (VCDC), was indicted by a Clay County grand jury Monday of 28 counts of forgery and one count of grand theft.

Harnois, of Vermillion, was taken into custody by Vermillion police on Tuesday and is free on $10,000 bond, after depositing 10 percent of that amount, or $1,000, with the Clay County clerk of courts.

Harnois' indictment follows an investigation begun by Vermillion police last November, when financial discrepancies were discovered by the VCDC board of directors.

According to court documents obtained by the Plain Talk, Harnois forged 28 checks on the VCDC's checking account between Nov. 1, 2006, and Nov. 2, 2007.

Thirteen of the checks were written to her, according to the indictment. Others were written to individuals or businesses.

The indictment also accuses Harnois of grand theft by taking over $1,000 from the VCDC.

According to a Jan. 10 Vermillion Police Department press release, the total amount stolen was $27,788.31.

Harnois is scheduled to appear in court in Vermillion for an arraignment hearing on Feb. 15.

On Jan. 7, the same day a Clay County grand jury met to consider whether to indict Harnois, the VCDC board of directors issued a statement to announce that it is searching for a new executive director.

The press release states, "Lisa Ketcham will be leaving the VCDC by March 1, 2008. Lisa's departure will provide the board an opportunity to redefine and clarify the VCDC's vision for Vermillion and the region, while seeking out an individual who will build on past successes, develop new programs/services for the membership and drive economic development."

Farron Pratt, president of the VCDC board during 2007, would not state whether Ketcham had decided on her own to leave her executive director post, or if she had been terminated by the board.

"I guess that's a personnel matter, and we really can't discuss those in a public forum," Pratt said.

He said a search committee has been formed to seek a new executive director.

"They are starting to work on that process," Pratt said. "When that may get completed is anybody's guess, but we do have some time between now and March 1 to hopefully move that process along."

The search committee is made up of Vermillion "city council representation," he said, "and also board members."

Pratt said it isn't clear yet whether the law enforcement investigation's findings have defined a weakness in the day-to-day operations of the board.

"We're evaluating what has transpired, and we have outsourced our accounting for interim practices," Pratt said, "and we will be putting together a finance committee in 2008 to look at all of those things and make recommendations to the board for possible changes."

It had been a regular practice at the VCDC to do the bulk of the finance accounting work in house, he said. An outside accounting firm also has been used to prepare tax returns and make direct payroll tax payments.

Pratt said an audit of the VCDC finances is nearly complete.

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