ITEAM: alleged corruption inside local court leads to criminal investigation

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CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM has found local court officials caught getting paid when they weren't working and even operating a private business inside the court.

The I TEAM has uncovered internal investigations inside Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.

Those internal probes found magistrates coming in late, leaving early and taking long lunches. And the Court found the head of the court psych clinic (diagnostic clinic) was not even a licensed psychologist.

Now one magistrate has resigned, another has been fired, and the head of the Court psych clinic has resigned.

An internal investigation raised questions about Dr. Todd Hendrix. For years, he oversaw the Court psych clinic, but an internal review found he "is not a licensed psychologist," and he "operates his private practice from court."

Another investigation found Magistrate Howard Dunn was "leaving the building without authorization for extended periods of time."

And Magistrate Charles Wochna was "arriving late and leaving the building without authorization." Plus, investigators found he got "paid for hours when he was not working and not in the building."

The Court says the two magistrates handled child support enforcement cases.

We asked Chief Juvenile Judge Kristin Sweeney how this went on with no one catching it. Sweeney said, "What we look at is quality of work, and they were meeting those standards. These were longtime employees, and their work product was generally OK."

Sweeney says the findings have been turned over to authorities for criminal investigation now, and the cases with magistrates have been referred to the State Supreme Court. Since the magistrates are lawyers, the Supreme Court could issue discipline.

All of the employees earned more than $80,000 a year.

Records show Wochna got fired. Dunn resigned. And Dr. Hendrix resigned, too.

However, in a resignation letter, Hendrix wrote, "I believed I was working for the greater good of the community..." And,"...that the court...does not view me as the steadfast employee I have long been, feels nothing less than a betrayal..."

We were unable to contact those employees for this story.

Judge Sweeney added, "We're diligent, and when we have a problem, we deal with it. We don't let it fester."

The Judge also says the Court is taking steps to prevent these kinds of situations in the future.

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