Village pursuing ex-manager to pay restitution

STEVENSVILLE — Former Stevensville Village Manager Todd Gardner is not going to avoid paying restitution to the village just because he’s no longer on parole and moved to Florida, village officials said Wednesday.

Village Treasurer Barbi Hoge told trustees she is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to have a garnishment filed on his bank accounts and subpoenas filed with places he may be working.

“We should have an answer on those subpoenas in the next couple of weeks,” said Hoge, who started working for the village in September 2014. “I will not let up. We may have some money next month. ... If I have to go down there and get the money, I’ll do it.”

Gardner was village manager from April 2006 to May 2009.

In November 2010, he was sentenced by a federal judge in Grand Rapids to four years and four months in prison for embezzling $277,647 from village funds while he was village manager. He was 49 at the time.

A jury found he had used village funds to pay personal utility and credit card bills, buy a vehicle, take vacations, buy groceries and to help pay his mortgage.

A Michigan Department of Treasury auditor told village trustees in 2010 that the embezzling started when Gardner also became the village treasurer in November 2006.

Gardner’s actions caused further headaches because he had the village take out almost $700,000 in loans from 1st Source Bank in Indiana so the village’s now-defunct Downtown Development Authority could buy property to expand the downtown.

A civil suit the village filed against Gardner in Berrien County Trial Court in September 2010 resulted in an $818,457 judgement against Gardner.

“He’ll never pay it off, but I’m going to keep getting every penny I can while he’s still breathing,” Hoge said after the meeting.

She said so far, the village has collected about $45,000 from Gardner, who was paying $25 a month while in prison and $300 a month while on parole. She said the amount includes about $16,000 she was able to garnish from his retirement. 

However, Hoge said his parole ended in October 2018 and “We have not received a payment since then.” 

The hardship to the village was long-lasting. 

In December 2013, the village was ordered by a federal court in Indiana to repay $850,000 to 1st Source Bank in Indiana. The total included the loans, interest and attorney fees. The loans were deemed to be illegal because village officials had not sought approval from the Michigan Department of Treasury.

The village made monthly payments to the bank from January 2014 until the summer of 2017, when trustees used $110,000 from the sale of one of the former DDA properties to pay the balance of the judgement a year early.

Hoge said the village now has internal controls in place so that kind of embezzlement doesn’t happen again. She said after Village Clerk Tiffany Moore double checks everything she does, President Steve Slavicek also looks it over.

In addition, she gives a detailed report of where the money is being spent to village trustees every month.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege