INEZ, Ky. - For the past 23 years, Carol Sue Mills has served the citizens of Martin County, Ky. as their County Court Clerk, winning each and every election during that time span with most her opponents failing to garner enough votes to even mention. During her tenure as county clerk, Mills has addressed the public on a number of occasions, but those speeches paled in comparison to the news she came forth with on Monday, as she bared her soul regarding a situation that affects her both professionally and personally.
The news conference held by Mills that was open to the public and to news media outlets stemmed from a recent Ky. State Audit that, after careful and thorough examination of the clerk’s office books, showed a financial discrepancy that could very well end in a total exceeding the $20,000 mark.
What makes this case with Mills so different from other similar audits that have ended in a revelation of misappropriation of funding within a public office or financial institution, is that the two employees the clerk has stated are responsible for the theft were her Chief Deputy Clerk, Tonya “Mills” Delong and her Office Supervisor, Tammy “Mills” Hairston, both of whom are her daughters.
“I have to be honest with the public, no matter how much it kills my soul to do so,” stated an emotional Mills, who choked back tears as she tried to retain her composure as she attempted to explain what the audit had revealed.
The press conference was held shortly after Mills had fired both her daughters from their county positions.
“In 23 years as your clerk, I’ve never had a bad audit. This time there appears to be criminal activity that has taken place in this office and I want all the people of Martin County to know I am so very sorry,” said Mills, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“This is a small community, we’re a close-knit group of people and when rumors start flying, I’d rather head them off with the truth, step forward and tell what happened rather than it appearing I was covering something up or defending my daughters.”
“I’ve always been a truthful person, and I will remain truthful, no matter who or what it involves.”
Mills stated that shortly after the state audit of her office began several weeks ago, she was informed there was money unaccounted for. The amount being tossed around right now, although it hasn’t been confirmed as of yet, is over $20,000 and could possibly even reach $30,000.
The clerk has her own speculations as to why the alleged thefts took place, and says that her younger daughter Tammy may have been helping to embezzle the money to aid and enable her sister Tonya to support her overwhelming drug addiction problem that has been an ongoing battle for many years.
Tonya has been employed for 22 years with her mother, beginning in that capacity shortly after graduating from Sheldon Clark High School in 1983. Within the past ten year period, she developed a serious drug addiction and was also arrested on at least one occasion involving drugs that resulted in her losing her county position for an undisclosed amount of time, but was later rehired.
Martin County Judge-Executive Kelly Callaham appeared at the press conference in support of his clerk, and said that he knew with everything in him that “Carol Sue would never do anything like this”.
Callaham remarked that he applauded Mills for her courage in preempting what he says will end in a criminal investigation.
“This is not just a hardship and a tribulation for her as our county clerk and her reputation in that capacity being questioned, but I can’t even imagine as a mother, what turmoil she’s feeling right now,” said the judge. “I hate this for her, and I want her to know that I’m here for her, as well as many others who know and understand the situation.”
“I’ve watched Carol Sue pull money out of her own pocket and give it to someone who didn’t have enough money to get their vehicle registered,” stated Susie Skiles, a deputy clerk who has served under Mills for many years.
“We just have to work hard and ban together, we’ll get through this,” stated Skiles. “We’ve faced adversity in the past, and we’ll survive this too.”
Although Mills expressed her heartfelt appreciation for those who voiced their support for her and stood by her side during this terrible time, she was quick to say this is not going to be easy for her to accept or overcome.
“I always said that if you can’t trust your own family, then who can you trust?” asked Mills.
Although the definite facts of exactly how the funds were removed from the office without being detected has not been confirmed or released by investigators, speculation is that it possibly occurred when the daily bank deposits were made, which was one of the duties shared by Mills’ daughters.
“We’re making changes to avoid any future problems, and I assure all Martin County residents that every step is being taken to resolve this situation,” said Mills. “I am just devastated and ask for your prayers.”