judge rejects former clerk's plea

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 16:39 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

The ability of a former town clerk to pay back money she embezzled from the town seemed to differ like the work hours she wrote on her time cards.

Patricia Arnett had her plea agreement rejected Wednesday after revealing she's not employed and doesn't have the ability to pay back the funds.

In exchange for her guilty plea to level 6 felony official misconduct, Arnett agreed to wear for 180 days an electronic device that senses if alcohol has been consumed and pay back just over $5,000 while on probation for 18 months.

The money would go to the town of Kingsford Heights to make up for the hours she put on her time cards she didn't work after taking over as clerk in 2016.

LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos said restitution could not be enforced if he accepted the terms knowing she had no ability to pay.

But, defense attorney Nelson Pichardo announced she has the money and could pay today.

''With the help of my family I do believe I can pay that,'' she said.

Alevizos fired back he would not change his mind since her original comments about her financial situation were already on record.

''She is clearly upset about this whole matter and not thinking clearly. She has the ability to pay,'' Pichardo said.

According to court documents, Arnett after elected clerk was paid $16.55 per hour and almost immediately began turning in time cards reflecting more hours than she actually worked.

She jotted down eight hours on many of the days she either didn't show up for work, came in late or left early.

Arnett blamed alcoholism for her cheating and informed her attorney she's been sober for the past 120 days.

Indiana State Police estimated she could have overbilled the town by as much

as $12,000 or more until she resigned early in 2017.

Kingsford Heights town attorney Jennifer Koethe said the town council doesn't object to the terms of the plea but efforts are being made to try and get the Indiana State Board of Accounts to audit the books so nothing gets overlooked.

''We have a number of concerns,'' she said.

Attorneys for both sides were given two weeks to decide what their next steps are going to be in the case.