The Richmond Register

March 7, 2013

5-year sentence recommended for former school bookkeeper

Register staff report

RICHMOND — Tonya Gill, 40, a former secretary/bookkeeper at Foley Middle School in Berea, charged with embezzling nearly $30,600 from school activity funds, entered an Alford plea Wednesday in Madison Circuit Court.

With an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that enough evidence exists for a conviction.

The state recommended she be sentenced to five years in prison and be required to make restitution, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith.

Gill was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of property (more than $10,000), a Class C felony, which can be punished by a sentence of five to 10 years.

Sentencing by Judge Jean C. Logue is scheduled for April 18 at 2 p.m.

Gill has been free since April 2 on a $30,000 full cash bond.

A Madison County grand jury indicted Gill nearly a year ago after school officials and a Kentucky State Police investigator presented evidence that she had stolen more than $30,000 from the school’s activity fund.

From July or August 2009 to August 2010,  Gill “obtained school activity funds subject to a legal obligation to deposit the funds in the school’s activity fund checking account,” according to the indictment. Gill “dealt with the funds as (if they were) her own,” it states.

State police were notified when the school district, through its own internal auditing system, discovered a discrepancy in the activity fund, according to Erin Stewart, the district spokesperson.

Money collected through school-sponsored fundraising activities is placed in a school activity fund, according to the Kentucky Department of Education’s handbook on activity fund accounting procedures.

Fund accounting and fundraising activities are overseen by the local school board, superintendent, principal and school treasurer.

The school treasurer is required to prepare a monthly financial report as well as an annual report on the activity fund by July 25 each year, according to the KDE handbook.

In 2009, the president and the treasurer of Foley Middle School’s parent-teacher organization were convicted of stealing more than $19,000 from the organization in 2007 and 2008. Oscar Combs and Michelle Combs were both sentenced to one year in prison.