A former Franklin High School secretary was found not guilty of two felony charges in Warren County Common Pleas Court on Friday afternoon.
Lanisa Smith, 51, was accused of taking more than $7,500 in school fees through deception and falsifying school records to cover up the alleged thefts for nearly a five-year period. At the time, she was the high school principal’s secretary.
A jury took about three hours on Friday to deliberate and return the not guilty verdicts after the 3-1/2 day trial.
Her attorney, Adam Arnold of Dayton, said, “she is very happy that she can move on with her life and can put this behind her.”
Arnold said Smith took the stand in her own defense Thursday.
“At the end of the day, the jury came back with the right result,” Arnold said. “She told her side of the story.”
Arnold said Franklin schools need to re-establish their accounting procedures for employees.
“There are so many problems that are synonymous with coaching problems and were not player problems,” Arnold said. “They were not trained and they did not know the rules. We had four, five people come in with different stories. I’m glad we were able to get this in the spotlight.”
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said the prosecutors trying the case met with jurors after the trial. The jurors raised concerns about Franklin schools’ lack of internal controls that lead to sufficient doubt during deliberations, resulting in the not guilty verdicts.
Franklin school officials declined to comment on the verdict.
Smith was indicted in June 2021 on charges of theft in office and tampering with evidence, both third-degree felonies. The thefts were reported by school officials to Franklin police on June 10, 2019.
Franklin School Superintendent Michael Sander said her resignation was accepted by the Franklin Board of Education at its June 24, 2019, meeting.
Franklin police said the case was turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification, which conducted the investigation with its forensic accounting unit. BCI found more discrepancies, which lengthened its investigation. Investigators said the thefts occurred from 2014 to 2019.