Three months for former school bookkeeper
By Jason Arndt
Although Kenosha County prosecutors did not recommend jail time, Circuit Court Judge David Bastianelli imposed a 90-day sentence on a former bookkeeper convicted of stealing funds from two area schools Friday.
Mary Anderson, 55, who pleaded guilty last December to felony forgery-uttering and a misdemeanor charge of theft, also received two years probation and was ordered to pay $47,000 in restitution.
At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger recommended probation, noting Anderson’s lack of criminal history.
“The state is recommending that the defendant be placed on a term of restitution and be ordered to pay the restitution,” Binger told Bastianelli. “Overall, I do think that probation is the appropriate one, given that the defendant’s lack of criminal record.”
Additionally, Binger noted Anderson’s willingness to cooperate with the investigation following a hearing last June, when she was initially charged for incidents stemming from her time at Salem Grade and Wheatland Center schools.
Anderson’s attorney, Ted Kmiec, told court officials that Anderson wanted to relieve some of burden from those involved in the case.
“She wanted closure for everybody, and that was the reason why we agreed to that,” said Kmiec.
Of the $47,000 in restitution, Anderson must pay $12,000 to Wheatland Center School, $25,000 to Salem Grade School, along with $10,000 to the insurance company contracted by both schools.
The forgery charge, which drew two years probation, relates to her time as human resource finance specialist at Wheatland. The misdemeanor charge, which resulted in the 90-day jail sentence, was from Salem Grade School.
While both schools declined to give an oral statement at the sentencing hearing, they recommended imposition of jail time, including, no contact with officials at Wheatland and Salem.
Kmiec, who entered into evidence Anderson’s health history, reported Anderson receives social security benefits stemming from a 2010 brain injury.
“She is currently receiving Social Security disability,” said Kmiec, who noted Anderson remained heavily involved in the community.
“She has been very active in her community,” he said, indicating her dedication to 4-H programs and the Girl Scouts, among other organizations.
Although neither side recommended jail time, despite requests from both schools, Bastianelli cited the court case involving Terra Mener, who received an 18-month sentence for embezzling funds from the Randall Parent-Teacher Club account.
“There needs to be some sentence imposed,” said Bastianelli, who was skeptical of Anderson’s ability to pay restitution.
However, Kmiec rebutted, stating Anderson is seeking part-time employment to meet the obligations of the settlement.
Additionally, family support was another mitigating factor, according to Binger. He said Anderson had an established work history prior to the recent charges.
“(She) has a good work history here, appears to have a good, stable family – they were married for over 30 years – has two children who seem be very successful,” said Binger.
“There is a lot of positive family background here, employment history, prior to these two jobs (that) were positive as well.”
Some background history
At the sentencing hearing, the prosecution and defense concurred the crimes were motivated by financial distress within the family, which included bankruptcy and a business failure.
“She did incur some financial difficulties during that time frame,” said Kmiec.
“It seemed clear to me that there were some financial issues that the family was incurring and I think that that was the primary motivating factor,” Binger said.
Anderson, who served as bookkeeper at Salem Grade School from 2006-14, was accused of paying herself $17,000, according to a criminal complaint.
When Salem’s new business manager, Susan Jarvis, arrived in December 2013, becoming Anderson’s supervisor, Jarvis uncovered some irregularities in February 2014 when Anderson refused to do assigned work.
“The defendant was refusing to perform her duties, her deposits were short and her check balances were wrong and not matching up,” the complaint states.
Anderson, who resigned, then took a position at Wheatland Center School, where she was accused of making unauthorized purchases using a school credit card.
Meanwhile, at Wheatland, McGinley started monitoring school accounts, which revealed seven unauthorized purchases and let to Anderson’s termination from the school.
Salem Grade School conducted a forensic audit of school accounts.
The forensic audit, conducted by Balanced Edge, revealed she paid herself $18.02 per hour, instead of $13.42 per hour from 2010-14.
Following Anderson’s termination, Wheatland conducted several audits, and uncovered a total loss of $11,607, the complaint states.