Former Johnnycake PTA president given a suspended three-year sentence

Stacie L. Price paid restitution, said she was 'ashamed and remorseful;' must serve three years' probation, pay court costs

December 20, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Stacie L. Price, the former PTA president at Johnnycake Elementary School, was given a suspended three-year prison term Monday after being convicted of stealing more than $9,000 from the organization.

Price was also fined $500 and ordered to pay court costs, and must serve three years of unsupervised probation. Prosecutor Michael S. Fuller had asked the judge to send the 39-year-old defendant to jail, saying she had violated a position of trust by writing checks to herself from the PTA's bank account over six months and stopped only "because she got caught."

Before being sentenced in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Price said she had paid restitution of the full amount she took — $9,697 — and described herself as "ashamed and remorseful." She said it was "fear of financial burden" that drove her to commit the thefts. Price, whose 11-year-old daughter attended the Catonsville school, acknowledged that her acts had "hurt a lot of people."

While she asserted that the thefts were "out of character" for her, Price said she accepted full responsibility. "The biggest lesson I think I learned is that in the midst of a crisis, the only thing you can control is your conduct," she said, "and I did not control my conduct."

Price, who faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, said she hoped Judge John J. Nagle III would impose probation before judgment, which would ultimately erase the criminal conviction from her record if she stayed out of trouble. Nagle said the case was "about the victims" and said he would be open at some point to considering a modification of the sentence.

Price's attorney, Isaac Klein, said he was encouraged that the judge had "sent a signal" that a lesser sentence was "not out of reach."

Gaye Hodges, the PTA's treasurer, said she and her colleagues had felt "a sense of betrayal" after discovering the thefts in April 2009, and that Price had gone to "great lengths to conceal them." Hodges told the court that the PTA had been rendered suddenly insolvent by Price's actions, and was unable to pay its bills and its contributions to field trips and graduation ceremonies.

After the hearing, Hodges said she was "fine" with the suspended sentence, and confirmed that Price had paid the PTA back in full. "The checks have cleared the bank," she said, adding that the crux of the crime was that Price had "stolen from the children."

At the hearing, several of Price's friends lauded her work as a board member of the Greater Baltimore Urban League and her participation in other groups. She remains in the fundraising business, primarily on behalf of a "financial literacy" program run by Visionary Financial Strategies Inc., where she serves as chief executive and president. On Nov. 23, Price sent out an e-mail appeal that invited "parents, teachers and mentors" to sign up middle- and high-school students to "learn how to value a dollar and make sound money decisions."

Mark W. Radcliff, first vice president of the Johnnycake PTA, said in a phone interview that Price had "drained our account down to less than a dollar." When the thefts were discovered, Price was confronted and she "went into this story about how her personal checks were the same color and that she'd made a mistake," he said.

When asked to pay the money back, Radcliff recalled, "She broke down and started boo-hooing and crying and admitted what she had done."

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