County worker accused of trying to get you to pay her bills

CLEVELAND - Action News exposes government theft in a case of your tax dollars being misused.

The Investigator, Tom Meyer, had the story that you could have seen only on Action News.

Water bills are high enough, but one county worker is accused of trying to trick you into paying for hers. Valerie Austin was indicted for government theft and forgery.

"It's serious," Cuyahoga County administrator Dennis Madden said. "Anytime you breach the public trust, it's serious."

Prosecutors said that Austin (pictured, above) had you, the taxpayers, pay for her water bills at a rental property she owns. She's accused of cashing in what's called PRC vouchers intended to help the needy in emergency situations.

Action News caught up with a Cleveland resident named "Carla" as she was just leaving the county agency offices where Austin had been employed.

"I think it's terrible," Carla said. "This is supposed to be used to help people who really need the help."

PRC vouchers are rarely used to pay for water bills, but the vouchers are honored.

Austin resigned from her county job just days before a county grand jury indicted her.

"If she didn't resign, she would have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation," Madden said.

Austin is facing eight counts of welfare fraud -- charges that could put her behind bars if she's convicted.