Former fiscal officer sentenced

LISBON – A Kensington-area woman avoided prison and will instead be placed on house arrest for stealing $1,590 from Summitville while serving as village fiscal officer.

Jennifer L. Burton, 34, of Emerick Road, was sentenced Thursday to two years probation by Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam after previously pleading guilty as charged to theft in office, a fourth-degree felony.

The first 60 days of Burton’s probation will be spent under electronic-monitored house arrest, although she will be allowed to drive to and from work. Judge Washam also ordered Burton to repay Summitville $1,590, and she came to the sentencing hearing with a personal check in that amount for the village. The money must be paid to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, however, which will transfer it to the village.

Burton was accused of stealing the money between March and November 2011, while working as Summitville’s fiscal officer. A routine state audit of the village books for that period discovered the discrepancy, resulting in a finding for recovery against her.

The state audit determined there were 12 instances where Burton, who also served as mayor’s court clerk for the village, collected $1,590 in cash for payment of traffic tickets issued by police officers, but there was no record of the money being deposited in the bank.

“They had traffic court monthly and there were times when there were no cash deposits even though there were receipts verifying cash had been received,” said Chief Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble.

He said that at first Burton insisted she had deposited the money but later admitted that was false.

As part of the plea deal, the prosecutor’s office recommended probation and house arrest for Burton as long as she made restitution. Judge Washam noted Burton was likely ineligible for placement in the prison-alternative facility for women in Lisbon because she scored low on a test used to determine how likely a defendant is to commit a future crime.

Before being sentenced, Burton apologized to Washam and her family, among others. “I take full responsibility. I just feel horrible about all of it. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before and it never will again,” she assured Washam.

A letter in support of Burton was received from Franklin Township Fire Chief James C. May.

No one from the village was in attendance, but Washam said current fiscal officer Bonnie Moore, in the court report about the financial impact of the theft on the village, noted that she did not oppose Burton being granted probation.