A former Superior Wisconsin city finance employee accused of stealing more than $1,000 in city funds will spend a year on probation and 10 days in jail.
Ruth Ann Olson, 58, pleaded no contest on April 18, 2011 in Douglas County Circuit Court to one felony count of misconduct in office and one count of misdemeanor theft.
Circuit Court Judge George Glonek accepted a two-year deferred judgment of conviction agreement for the felony charge. If she follows the agreement, according to District Attorney Dan Blank, the charge will be dismissed. “The ball’s in her court,” he said. “That’s what we say on some of these deferred cases that we’ll give you a chance to avoid a felony conviction if you can follow the agreement, be law-abiding.” Glonek withheld sentence and put Olson on one year probation for the theft charge; conditions include 10 days in jail and a $100 fine plus court costs.
Blank said the deal strikes a fair balance. “There will be a conviction on her record for sure; there will be punishment in the form of jail time,” he said. The stolen money has been recovered through a benefit withholding, according to City Attorney Frog Prell. He expressed his frustration at the string of employee thefts that have plagued the city since 2005, including a library employee, another employee in the finance department, a firefighter and then-Fire Chief Stephen Gotelaere. “It’s getting painful to see,” Prell said. “People are ruining good and long-tenured careers by getting handsy with the till and the taxpayers deserve a little better than that.”
The city sees such incidents as a betrayal of public trust in government, Blank told the court. According to the criminal complaint: Olson worked as a staff assistant with the city of Superior finance department, taking in money from the landfill and from citizens who came to pay bills for such as storm water fees. When she called in sick on Nov. 15, a staff member covering her position found unsecured deposit packets from the landfill in Olson’s desk with cash and checks in them. One had the correct amount in it — $148. The other was supposed to have $865 in it, but only had $665. Olson made the $865 deposit the following day, but did not deposit the $148. When questioned by Finance Director Jean Vito, Olson said she took the $200 and replaced it with other city funds — the $148 landfill deposit and $52 from a library deposit — to make the deposit whole.
“I haven’t been doing it for very long, just a little bit here and there,” she told Vito. “I had to have it. I had no other place to get it.” Olson told Detective Mike Jaszczak of the Superior Police Department that she used the $201 to pay a fuel oil bill and she intended to give the money back. She also admitted to taking $671.22 of city cash in October to cover her utility bill and house payment. In addition, the Superior woman gave herself two dog licenses without paying for them, the complaint stated. An internal audit revealed that $1,121.13 was taken from various city deposits since April.
Olson was released from employment Dec. 10, according to Cammi Koneczny, human resources manager for the city. Olson was a city employee for 18 years, holding offices with the planning department and environmental services division before moving to the finance department in 2007, Koneczny said. At the time she was released from the city’s employ, the Superior woman was making $16.71 an hour, working 37Â½ hours a week.
Superior Telegram —