Gaines investigation continues

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By The Staff

Only after a proper investigation will an Owen County Grand Jury consider the evidence against county official Renaee Gaines, the deputy judge-executive who state auditors say overpaid herself more than $14,000 by manipulating payroll records.

Gaines was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 7 pending a criminal investigation, after a state audit found she increased her salary from $35,000 to $49,000 by diverting money from the county’s ambulance fund over a span of two fiscal years. Gaines was the primary payroll supervisor for her office.

In July, Gaines wrote three separate checks to repay the office, according to receipts obtained from the county treasurer.

Commonwealth Attorney Jim Crawford of the 15th Judicial Circuit said Monday that more time is needed to conduct a “thorough and professional” investigation before a grand jury can hear all the evidence against Gaines.

“It’s a process – and not one you can do overnight,” said Crawford, who’s been in daily contact with investigators and auditors. “I anticipate a grand jury will look at this matter as soon as it can be investigated.”

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is responsible for conducting the investigation. A spokeswoman for that office said Monday she couldn’t comment until the investigation is complete. She could not give a time limit for the case.

Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion initially called the case a financial oversight and said “no criminal intent” existed. But a panel of Owen County jurors will ultimately decide those merits.

“The facts of the law are going to call this,” Crawford said. “It’s going to be up to 12 people in Owen County on whether someone will charge this. And I find Owen County [jurors] to be extremely fair and honest in how they do things.”

The grand jury next meets on Sept. 23.