Former teacher admits taking nearly $100k in union dues
BY STACI WILSON
A former Montrose Education Association treasurer admitted Friday to stealing nearly $100,000 from the union over a three to five year time period.
Cheryl Arnold, 54, a former Spanish teacher at the Montrose Area Junior-Senior High School, pleaded guilty in Susquehanna County Court to a felony charge of theft by unlawful taking. The count carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
Arnold was originally accused of misappropriating over $94,000 in teachers’ union dues. But in court Friday, District Attorney Jason Legg said as additional information in the case became available, Arnold actually stole about $97,500.
As a result of discussions with Arnold’s attorney, John Petorak, Legg said he would be willing to accept change in the plea to a misdemeanor count of misappropriation of entrusted property of government or financial institutions if she paid at least $50,000 in restitution prior to being sentenced. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Jan. 23.
Charges were first lodged against Arnold in early 2012 after it was discovered that union dues had not been paid and funds from 2011 were missing.
Arnold was suspended without pay from her position in March 2011 after the district learned of the ongoing investigation the potential embezzlement of union funds.
According to court documents, the police investigation into the matter was sought by Montrose Education Association attorney William Hebe, of the Law Offices of Spencer, Gleason, Hebe and Rague.
Hebe indicated to police that Arnold had taken a considerable sum of MEA money for her own personal use.
The MEA attorney also provided police with a spreadsheet, prepared by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) that showed the amount of funds converted for the time period that was under examination.
During the investigation, PSEA Business Manager Joseph Howlett told police that Arnold, in her position as MEA treasurer, was required to submit the payment of annual dues to both PSEA and the National Education Association and that those payments were delinquent for the 2011 fiscal year.
According to the court records, Howlett also told police that after reviewing the MEA account, there appeared to be many unauthorized transactions.
In a March 2011 interview with police, Arnold admitted to taking some money from the association’s account but estimated she owed MEA $45,000-$50,000.
Arnold remains free on bail.