Ex-secretary gets theft term


January 25, 2007|By Tyrone Richardson

A former Howard County public school secretary convicted of embezzling more than $10,000 from school activity funds over a two-year period was sentenced yesterday to six months in the Howard County Detention Center.

Howard Circuit Judge Richard S. Bernhardt sentenced Ethel Collette Kirk, 53, formerly of Laurel, to seven years in prison, suspending all but six months. Bernhardt also credited Kirk for the 72 days she has served since he revoked her $25,000 bond after she was found guilty Nov. 15.

Kirk was also sentenced to five years' probation, during which time she will have to pay $10,020 in restitution to the Howard County school system.

Kirk was found guilty of forging 19 school-issued checks between 2003 and 2005 from band and other school activity funds at Folly Quarter Middle School in Ellicott City.

A school audit in 2005 revealed that Kirk had written checks to herself for cash, forged the school principal's signature and falsified records to indicate that the checks had been written to vendors or fictitious companies, according to testimony in the trial.

Prosecutors argued that the severity of Kirk's actions and the danger they posed to the victims - the children and the school system - required a jail term.

In addition, prosecutors revealed at yesterday's hearing that Kirk had been convicted in 1980 for embezzlement. Records from that conviction were not immediately available.

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