12/11/07

Union treasurer convicted for embezzlement

The former treasurer for Tracy’s non-teaching school employees’ union has repaid $5,300 to her union and must spend 750 hours of community service after she was convicted Monday of misdemeanor embezzlement.

Tracy (CA) Unified School District bus driver Lincy Estelle Merritt, 45, of Tracy, pleaded no-contest Monday to the misdemeanor charge in Tracy court. San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Maier said that her lack of a prior criminal record and her effort to make restitution justified the misdemeanor conviction, reduced from the felony charge she faced since she was charged in May.

Court Commissioner Eric Lundberg also sentenced Merritt to three years probation, fined her $230 and told her that she must report back to the court in two months to confirm that she has started her community service, which she must arrange through the Center for Positive Prevention Alternatives in Stockton.

Denise Cheeseman, president of Chapter 98 of the California School Employees Association, and other union members at Monday’s court hearing said they were glad to see the case concluded, but added that the conviction doesn’t resolve all of the problems associated with Merritt’s tenure as union treasurer.

Merritt also reportedly had membership records for the union’s 500 members, but those were never recovered and her attorney, Michael Barkett, and Maier said Merritt doesn’t have those records and doesn’t know where they are.

“If the union believes she has something, it should contact the district attorney and the district attorney will contact me,” Barkett told Lundberg.

Cheeseman said the loss of those records immediately raised fears that union members could fall victim to identity theft if their personal information fell into the wrong hands.

“All of our membership records, all of our past audits and past budgets … We didn’t receive any of that back, so that’s a substantial loss for us,” she said.

Cheeseman said that the $5,300.78 Merritt paid on Monday represents only the money that could be confirmed as stolen, though Merritt was originally accused of taking more than $8,700. The difference, Cheeseman said later, was lost revenue from Merritt’s failure to collect union dues.

Merritt is still employed as a bus driver for the school district. James Mousalimas, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said he could not comment on whether Monday’s conviction will affect Merritt’s employment. He also would not say if a misdemeanor conviction ever affects a school district worker’s employment status.

“We really have to look at all of the facts of the conviction and we don’t have that at this point,” Mousalimas said.

(tracypress.com)

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