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May 28, 2004

 

State Auditors Uncover Misconduct By Former Perrysburg
Town Justice Tina Armstrong

Former Perrysburg Town Justice Tina M. Armstrong pled guilty today in Cattaraugus County Court to official misconduct stemming from the theft of court funds and was sentenced to three years probation. Armstrong’s actions were discovered following a State Comptroller’s audit requested by the Perrysburg Town Board.

“Armstrong’s actions represent a deplorable violation of the public’s trust, and she must be held accountable for her actions,” said State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. “I commend the District Attorney for addressing this matter quickly and strongly encourage the Town Board to take aggressive action to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Town justices are responsible for managing the operations of their office, including imposing and collecting fines and bail money. When auditors analyzed Armstrong’s financial records, they found that her account was short by more than $5,000 and that certain court-imposed fines were not properly accounted for and remitted to the appropriate parties.

Auditors also discovered that Armstrong’s financial records were incomplete, and that she had not reconciled bank statements with other records as required. When auditors questioned Armstrong about the missing funds, she made inconsistent statements and claimed to have lost some of the money in a car accident.

Many of the monthly reports that town justices are legally required to file were submitted by Armstrong up to three months late, according to auditors. Auditors found that the financial improprieties occurred because the town did not have a sufficient internal control system.

The audit findings were referred to the Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office. On March 31, 2004, Armstrong resigned her position as town justice.

As part of the plea agreement, Armstrong pled guilty to official misconduct, a Class A Misdemeanor, and agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $5,147. Restitution was determined by a follow up review of court financial records by state auditors.

In a written response to the audit, included in the final document, town board members said they are instituting new internal control and record-keeping systems, installing new software to submit required reports, and requiring monthly bank statements from all town justices.

This is the second official in Cattaraugus County found to have misused official funds and to have resigned following the results of an audit by the Office of the State Comptroller. In a report released in January 2004, auditors disclosed that former Dayton Town Justice Barbara Elsholz diverted $4,700 in courts funds for personal use. Elsholz then resigned from her position, and the audit findings were referred to the Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office.

Click Here for a Copy of the Report.

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