Former Hardin County Animal Services director faces multi-count indictment

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The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office said Thursday it has completed an investigation resulting in the indictment of Christopher Sikes, the former Hardin County Animal Services director.

According to the office, investigators found that Sikes allegedly stole at least $12,117 in shelter collections while serving as director from January 2019 until his employment was terminated in January 2023.

Sikes reportedly used two different methods:

• Sikes improperly voided receipts totaling $8,459 in the shelter’s accounting software.

Voided receipts could occur when a refund is issued. However, shelter services are nonrefundable, and numerous customers who had their receipts voided confirmed that no refunds were received. Investigators verified that these collections were neither re-receipted nor deposited.

• Sikes also failed to deposit at least $3,658 in fees collected at the shelter. Investigators analyzed shelter revenue reports and found that collections totaled $24,618 for the period reviewed. However, the Hardin County trustee's deposit records revealed that Sikes only deposited $20,960 in collections.

The Comptroller’s Office said Sikes was the only shelter employee authorized to void receipts. He was also the only person who could access collections from the safe, prepare shelter collections for deposit, and deliver deposits to the county trustee.

Based upon this investigation, the Hardin County Grand Jury in November indicted Sikes for one count of theft of property over $10,000, one count of forgery over $10,000, one count of computer crimes over $2,500, one count of destruction of and tampering with governmental records, and one count of official misconduct, the Comptroller’s report states.

“Hardin County officials should ensure that one person is not given exclusive control over key financial processes,” said Comptroller Mumpower. “Separating financial duties reduces the risk that errors or misappropriations will go undetected.”

The indictment comes following a series of stories published by The Courier focusing on alleged mismanagement at Hardin County Animal Services.

The stories, by former staff writer Kelly Jordan, won a first place award for Investigative Reporting from the Tennessee Press Association and the University of Tennessee System. Jordan continues to write for The Courier as a correspondent.