A former city of Cherryville employee has been charged with embezzling city funds as the result of a still-ongoing investigation that could ultimately result in additional charges against her or others.
Jennifer Neal Hoyle, 34, of Cherryville, was charged with 10 felony counts of embezzlement on Friday, according to the Gaston County Clerk of Court’s Office and a city of Cherryville press release issued by Jeff Cash, acting city manager.
Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell ordered the investigation in February after two city officials were thought to be misusing city credit cards and payroll adjustments, according to an archived Times-News article. The city had been experiencing financial irregularities since December 2011, Mayor Bob Austell told the Times-News last month.
Hoyle served at least 12 years with the city as the utility customer service supervisor, Cash said.
Cash assumed the acting city manager position on June 15 after the City Council terminated former manager David Hodgkins. The decision stemmed from the city’s need for “new leadership,” not speculation Hodgkins had been involved in any criminal activity, Austell said.
In order to prevent further internal issues, city employees have immediately implemented additional checks and balances throughout their daily operations and have “expanded” their annual internal audit process to incorporate more controls, Cash said.
More specifically, a number of employees now conduct daily balance and audit reports, checking behind one another on receipts and deposits.
In addition, city computer systems contain “tighter system controls,” and three of the city’s four current utility department employees, including finance director, are recent hires, Cash said.
This month, city officials also anticipate Mayor Austell appointing an audit committee consisting of people in the community, not “business people,” to assist the finance director, Cash said.
Additional procedures will be implemented in the future.
Hoyle, who was taken into custody on an unsecured bond, is set to make her next district court appearance on Aug. 16.
Officials have said the investigation remains open and have not ruled out additional charges.