DORSET — The now-former president of the Dorset Village Library has been removed from her position and cited by police for improperly withdrawing $6,000 in cash from the library’s operations account in September.
Dorothea Kelly, 62, of Dorset, pleaded not guilty Monday to a single embezzlement charge during her arraignment at the Bennington District Courthouse, Criminal Division.
Kelly is charged with withdrawing $6,000 in cash from the library’s operating account on Sept. 9.
Kelly faces a maximum of up to 10 years in prison, or up to $10,000 fine, or both on the single charge.
Kelly was discharged as president of the board of trustees after a series of emergency meetings in September.
The money reappeared in the library’s bank account late in the afternoon of Oct. 13 after a cash deposit was made.
The missing funds were noticed Sept. 9 by current Library Director Erica Shott, who was conducting routine financial oversight.
“I check the account regularly,” Shott said. “I knew I didn’t do it, and I’m really the only one who would be doing any of this.”
The account in question is the fund the library uses to pay its ongoing bills.
Shott said she immediately noticed the big withdrawal and contacted treasurer Jaymie Levine, who is the only other one who should have access to the funds.
“I got a phone call from [Shott] in a panic who said there was a transfer of about $6,000 that came out of our operating account,” Levine said. “It turned out that it was a withdrawal of cash and made by someone who was a signer on the account. Because I am new to the position, I didn’t know there was one other signer on the account until we got a copy of the withdrawal slip.”
That slip identified Kelly as the person who withdrew the cash.
Shott and Levine called an emergency board meeting where trustees suspended Kelly from the board, and removed her access to all financial accounts.
“Once I alerted everybody on the board, we called an emergency meeting,” Shott said. We removed her from all our accounts, including the endowment. Once we heard it was embezzlement, we voted to remove her from the board.”
That official word came from Sgt. Chris Miller, of the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department.
Miller’s investigation, which began Sept. 10, subpoenaed bank records and security footage to document his case.
Miller said he couldn’t release the details before the case goes to court Monday, but on Sept. 22 he cited Kelly into court on the advice of Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage.
Marthage, in an email, wrote, “We always provide the opportunity to return the money prior to continuing the investigation in financial crimes and, if they return it prior to adjudication, that greatly impacts the State’s decision regarding outcome.”
When approached after her arraignment, Kelly said, “No comment.”
Payroll would’ve bounced
“We wanted our money back,” Levine said. “That’s a lot of money for us. If we hadn’t caught it early enough, payroll would have bounced.”
Levine said she watches the finances closely and hasn’t seen any other improper actions.
“I watch things like a hawk,” Levine said, adding that she has reviewed transactions for the past three years and hasn’t found anything questionable.
The board also met and made some bylaw changes to further tighten financial controls.
The board required its authorization for any cash withdrawal of any amount, and will require two signatures going forward on checks over $2,000.
Finally, anybody who touches money will be subject to a credit report, including a background check.
“It wouldn’t have helped with this, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Levine said. “We wanted our donors to know that we took it very seriously. We did everything we could to make sure it went right.”
Levine praised Shott’s attentiveness.
“Anything that goes in or out of that account she’s watching. We’re lucky she caught it.”
Shott said the bylaw changes will tighten an already tight system.
“We really have a pretty good security system, but you don’t really expect it to be your board president,” Shott said. “But we did change some of the bylaws.”
With Kelly removed from the board, former board vice president Leigh Perham has been named president.
“We’re bringing her back now so we have someone with experience in the leadership position,” Shott said.
Efforts to reach Kelly for comment were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.