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Former Unaka High School teacher charged with taking school funds from meat processing program

John Thompson • Updated Jul 15, 2019 at 8:23 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A former teacher at Unaka High School is facing several charges accusing him of taking funds from a vocational program in which he worked.

A Carter County grand jury indicted John-Claude Eric Hardin on July 8 on one count of theft over $1,000; one count of official misconduct, and six counts of forgery. The charges stem from an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. The state office was joined in the investigation by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office after school officials discovered and reported cash shortages.

Unaka High School has long been proud of its meat-processing program, which has provided training for many students who found jobs in area butcher shops and and meat departments of supermarkets.

The comptroller’s office said part of the program involved customers bringing livestock to the meat-processing classroom, where students slaughtered the animals. The customers paid a fee for this service. The school also raised cattle on a farm.

Investigators said they determined Hardin stole at least $1,865 between November 2017 and November 2018.

The comptroller’s office said Hardin used two schemes to carry out his theft. He kept cash that was paid to the school for meat-processing fees totaling $1,229. He also sold a steer from the school farm at a livestock auction and kept the $636 he received from the transaction.

According to the grand jury presentment, the forgeries occurred when Hardin falsely wrote the word “void” on the school’s copy of the receipts for customers who paid cash for the meat-processing service.

Hardin resigned his position with the Carter Country School System on Nov. 30, 2018.

"Although school officials first alerted investigators to this activity, more could have been done to detect this situation," said Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. "School officials should always carefully review receipts and reconcile them with the money deposited. I'm pleased to note that school leaders have corrected or intend to correct this weakness.”

Peggy Campbell, assistant director of Carter County Schools, said she would not comment on Hardin’s alleged actions because the case is still being tried in court. She did say the school system remains proud of the unique CTE program and that one problem does not take away from all the good accomplishments of the program.

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