Told that neither the current nor past board chairman had approved his salary hike, Hardwick then said it had been approved in principle at a board meeting in October 1985.
Asked which board members specifically approved the salary increase, Hardwick named two: James Lamar and Glenda Harris.
The minutes of that meeting, supplied by Hardwick, state that the board agreed to pay him "$100,000 to $115,000 along with Health Insurance, Retirement, and a Revolving Expense Account of $5,000."
"At that time, Mr. Hardwick was not paid according to the other leaders of the various agencies that are similar to James E. Scott, " Lamar said. "So we tried to make an adjustment at that time. I do remember that very well."
Harris said she recalled the board approving a salary hike in 1985 but did not remember details. "That was six years ago, " she said.
Former board member Arthur King, who also attended the October 1985 meeting, said he did not remember any discussion of a pay raise. He had no idea that Hardwick's salary ever reached the $140,000-a-year level.
"I can't see how he could receive a salary like that with a struggling organization like that's been, " King said.
Hardwick did not take the raise for the next five years. Instead, he gave himself the $50,000 pay hike last year, saying he was making up for the years he hadn't taken the money.
Hardwick now calls the decision to take the salary increase "a mistake." He said he voluntarily decided to cut his salary to $70,000 a few months ago.
However, Thoroman, JESCA's fiscal director, said that Hardwick asked for the salary cut a few weeks ago -- hours before a scheduled Herald interview.
In the taped, two-hour interview, Hardwick explained why he wrote and cashed JESCA checks to himself.
He initially said he withdrew "about $35,000 to $40,000" last year from JESCA bank accounts. This, he said, was money JESCA owed him for bailing the agency out of a tax problem several years ago.
In initial interviews, Hardwick gave this account:
In 1986, JESCA owed $75,000 in back taxes. He said the IRS filed a $65,000 levy against him personally because he was the agency's president.
"I had to pay the taxes or suffer serious consequences, " Hardwick said. "I was borrowing the money on behalf of JESCA so it wouldn't hurt the agency."
He said he scraped and borrowed from relatives and eventually satisfied the tax lien. Last year, when relatives started pressuring him, Hardwick decided to begin reimbursing himself for the $65,000.
He declined to provide the name of any relative who had loaned him money.
Other documentation to support his account is among the paper work recently stolen from JESCA, he said.
Stolen documents include "bank reconciliation statements, bank checks, ledgers, monthly files on reimbursements for expenditures, correspondence regarding fiscal matters and supporting documentation of agency expenditures (including my own), " said Hardwick.
But JESCA's board of directors knew the agency had owed him the money and had authorized him to reimburse himself, Hardwick said in the initial interview.
Current board Chairman George, who has served on the board of directors for the past five years, said he was unaware of Hardwick paying taxes on the agency's behalf.
Asked if he was aware of a board-approved plan to reimburse Hardwick, George replied: "I don't even know what you're talking about. I've never heard of it before."