VERSAILLES – Sunman clerk-treasurer Kristina Schneider, 55, pled guilty to the charge of public official misconduct and was sentenced Nov. 1 in Ripley County Superior Court by special Judge Jon Webster of Jennings County Circuit Court.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed Dec. 13, 2012, in Ripley Superior Court, an audit of the town’s financial records was completed by the Indiana State Board of Accounts in June 2012. The document stated Schneider had used the town’s credit card for eight personal purchases totaling $1,786.02 in 2009; seven purchases totaling $1,317.65 in 2010 and two purchases adding up to $525.20 in 2011.
She also refunded the entire amount to the town May 24, 2012, and paid audit expenses to the ISBA for the same amount, the affidavit revealed.
One of the decisions that had to be made at the sentencing was whether she would be charged with a Class D felony or the lesser Class A misdemeanor. Her attorney, Robert Ewbank, Lawrenceburg, called Wayne Jenner, Sunman Town Council president, to the stand first.
He said he has known Schneider for at least 25 years. “She has served the town quite well and really works hard. She is responsible for many of the activities we have done and grant projects to improve the town. She goes above and beyond.”
When asked if he thought the clerk-treasurer should continue on in her position, he responded, “I think it was just a very bad judgment on her part.”
Ripley County prosecutor Ric Hertel pointed out, “There is a very large contingency from the town of Sunman who would like to see her removed” from her clerk-treasurer position. He handed Jenner a petition and asked how many residents signed the document.
However, Ewbank noted, “We don’t know if there are individuals on the list who didn’t know what they were signing, and we don’t know if they are all citizens.”
Jenner agreed, “Some have addresses that are in town and others don’t.” Looking through the list, he said there were about 42 signatures out of a population of about 900 of individuals who lived within the town limits.
The prosecutor also asked the president if town employees had to be replaced, would he consider hiring a convicted felon to replace them? Jenner reported, “It would depend on the circumstances.”
Gary Norman, Ripley County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said he has known Schneider since 2000 when he took office as Osgood’s clerk-treasurer with Schneider as his mentor. “Kris is one of the members of my board, and she’s at every meeting.”
The prosecutor asked Sunman citizen Neil Bowers if he had signed the petition, and Bowers said yes. Hertel also wondered if he thought she should be removed from her position. Bowers announced, “Yes, it has come to that.”
Ewbank questioned him about who authored the petition. The citizen answered, “I prefer not to say.”
The attorney also wondered who carried the petition around to get signatures. Bowers said, “The person who authored it did it at first. This person, who obtained most of the signatures, was very forward about what it was about ..... (but later) it ended up in the hands of someone who shouldn’t have taken it around and this person bullied people into signing it,” whether they agreed with it or not.
Schneider, who has been the clerk-treasurer for 23 years, revealed she has only missed two days of work during that time. Since being charged, she has also attended counseling, “which made me put everything in perspective.”
She apologized “to the court, my fellow citizens and certainly to my family and friends for the circumstances that bring me here today .... I truly love my job and care deeply about the people, projects and programs that we have created. My mishandling of the credit account was unprofessional. This past year has taken its toll on me both physically and emotionally ....”
Before announcing Schneider’s sentence, the judge said, “The mitigating factors in this case are that Ms. Schneider comes with no prior criminal history. She’s a high school graduate, and she pled guilty, which saved the state time and money .... The aggravating factor is she did violate trust.”
Webster entered a judgment of a Class A misdemeanor and one year of reporting probation.
He said the question of whether the clerk will keep her job or not will be left up to someone at the state level. He was not sure who that would be. Both Hertel and Ewbank were also uncertain.
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.