Former Christian County Auditor Lacey Hart pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges and will be placed on probation.
Hart, 61, made an Alford plea on three charges in a court appearance in Greene County on Oct 30. Through the Alford plea, Hart admitted that there is sufficient evidence to convict her of three crimes, but did not fully admit to committing the crimes.
Hart was sentenced to three years of probation and 40 hours of community service.
Hart pleaded to two counts of failing to perform an act or duty required by law and one count of violation a provision of state statute regarding certified public accountants. All of the charges are misdemeanors.
A statement from defense attorney Dee Wampler says Hart is, "satisfied with the conclusion of this saga, looks forward to some type of future public service and is happy to move on with her life."
Hart was accused that she, "knowingly used the designation 'CPA,' tending to indicate that she was (a) certified public accountant."
According to the indictment, Hart "did not hold a valid certified public accountant certificate or permit and the defendant was engaged in the practice of auditing, and as a result, not subject to the permitting exception ..."
In the Alford plea, Hart acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence of a charge that she ”failed to prepare the county budget ..." Other charges alleged that Hart failed to prepare and submit the county's monthly financial statement, "specifically striking a balance of all county offices and township offices."
The statement from the defense attorney notes that Christian County assumed status as a Missouri first class county on the same day that Hart first took office.
"A change in the computer system overwhelmed Lacey, who often worked long hours until midnight," the statement reads.
While Hart’s case originates in Christian County, Judge J. Ronald Carrier is a specially assigned judge from Greene County by the Missouri Supreme Court and special prosecutor Anthony Michael Brown is from Taney County.
According to the defense attorney, Taney County prosecutors sorted through more than 50,000 emails and pieces of electronic data in Hart's case.
Wampler initially moved for a change of venue when Hart was first indicted in July 2017.
Deputies served Hart the summons on July 25, 2017.
At about 1:30 p.m. July 24, Christian County Sheriff's Office deputies were inside the auditor’s office on the second floor of the Historic Courthouse. Thirty minutes later, those deputies escorted her to her vehicle, along with boxes of items cleared from her office.
Hart officially resigned from office Aug. 3, 2017, at a press conference outside the courthouse in Ozark.
In the 2014 Republican primary, Hart edged Norma Ryan by 44 votes to win the auditor’s race 4,757-4,713. Hart succeeded former county auditor Sam Yarnell, who decided not to seek reelection in order to retire. Hart went on to win the Christian County auditor position uncontested in the November 2014 general election with 99.11 percent of the popular vote.