CLEARFIELD – A former Coalport Borough secretary was sentenced to state prison for stealing more than $23,000 from the town.
Donna Jean Peterson, 45, 25 White St., Irvona, pleaded guilty before Judge Fredric J. Ammerman during colloquy court to a felony count of access device fraud.
He sentenced her to six months to three years in state prison. She must pay $23,176.43 in restitution to the borough.
Prior to sentencing Joseph Nevling of the Coalport Borough Council told Ammerman that the borough will most likely have to get a loan for the 2015-16 tax year because of Peterson’s actions. He said if she paid even $100 per month, it would still be more than 19 years before the debt would be paid in full.
David Thompson, attorney for Peterson, explained she is remorseful. She has suffered mental health and financial problems since the crime was discovered.
Peterson told Ammerman she knew what she did “was terribly wrong” and she had no excuses for what she did.
The charges stem from incidents beginning in 2007 and ending in May 2013. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Nevling who was president of Coalport Borough Council, told police in May of 2013 that he learned the borough had an outstanding delinquent bill of $684 at Lowe’s. Three payments had been made on the bill earlier that year with money from the general fund.
The items purchased from Lowe’s included a home generator and home vanity that had been delivered to Peterson’s home. When this information was presented to Peterson at a council meeting, she admitted she would have continued to do this if they hadn’t caught her.
Further investigation revealed that Peterson had charged more than $4,000 at Staples for items the borough would not use and she was adding hours to her timesheet. There was also cash missing from park donations and the building permits fund. When Peterson was asked about this she explained the money had gotten mixed together and she would fix it.
In her interview with police in October of 2013, she admitted she used the borough’s credit cards from Lowe’s and Staples for personal purchases. She said she bought her children Kindles, a computer and other school supplies at Staples. She also stated she purchased the vanity and generator for her own home. She denied taking any cash.
Peterson explained that the extra time on her timesheets was for the calls about borough business that she got at her home. She said that she did a lot more than she claimed hour wise.
Police spoke with Nancy Washell, the secretary that replaced Peterson on Oct. 23, 2013. She told officers Peterson was claiming 50 to 60 hours per two week pay period while she supposedly worked at home. Washell said there was nothing Peterson could take home to do. The borough was actually getting complaints from people because no one was in the office. Peterson’s hours were 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but the majority of the time she wasn’t there.