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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
AP Florida

Polk judge accused of fraud continues to collect salary

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BARTOW – A Polk County judge accused of falsifying time sheets for her judicial assistant will continue to collect her salary.

Circuit Judge Beth Harlan was charged last week with scheming to defraud and grand theft. According to an affidavit, Harlan signed off on time sheets so that her judicial assistant, Alisha Rupp, would get paid for time that she didn’t work. Harlan’s arrest followed an investigation that began after Rupp made public claims in July that she was fired for complaining about a “sexually toxic work environment” at the courthouse.

Chief Judge William Bruce Smith confirmed to The Ledger that Harlan will continue to receive her salary, which is about $142,000 a year, during her “voluntary suspension.”

Smith says Harlan’s absence will put a strain on the local courts.

Rupp was also arrested in the case. She alleged after she was fired in July by Polk County Chief Judge Bruce Smith that the courthouse was a sexually toxic environment where she walked in on a judge and bailiff having sex and had been sexually harassed by a bailiff because of what she saw. The firing, she said in a termination complaint, was caused by the information she had.

But last week investigators said that Rupp also lied about the sexual environment. In fact, she was the one who had sex with the bailiff, according to the arrest affidavit.

Information from Tribune archives was used in this report.

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