Mayor Mark Lauretti didn’t directly say whether he thought four-and-a-half years behind bars is appropriate for Sharon Scanlon, but he said the sentencing in court on Jan. 30 brings an end to part of the ordeal.
“It closes a chapter in this unfortunate situation,” Lauretti said late Thursday, in reaction to Scanlon’s sentencing earlier in the day.
He’s uncertain if the specific amount of time Scanlon spends in prison is that important. ”I’m not sure it matters,” Lauretti said. “She’s ruined her life. Being incarcerated for that amount of time will have a huge effect of her psychologically and otherwise.”
As has been the case in the past when discussing Scanlon’s legal case, he described the situation as “sad. We had a lot of trust and faith in her.”
Scanlon, the city’s former assistant finance director, was accused on stealing $914,000 from the city. She accepted a plea agreement involving two felony counts for forgery and larceny.
She was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison, followed by five years on probation. Scanlon spent her first night in prison on Thursday night. As part of her sentence, she also will have to pay some restitution to the city.
No one from city spoke in court
Lauretti decided not to speak in court or send another representative to speak on behalf of the city. As the victim, state judicial officials had contacted Lauretti to present the opportunity for someone to speak on behalf of the city of Shelton before Scanlon was sentenced.
During the proceeding in Milford state Superior Court on Thursday, State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor asked if anyone was present from the city to address the court.
Then Lawlor turned around and looked into the public gallery to see if anyone was there on the city’s behalf. No one responded.
“There’s nothing to gain,” Lauretti said of why he or someone else didn’t speak for the city at the court proceeding. “What damage is done, is done,” he said.
Why wasn’t she caught sooner?
During the sentencing process, both Lawlor and Scanlon’s attorney, William Dow III, said they were surprised Scanlon was able to get away with stealing money for as long as she did. The money is believed to have been stolen over a 10-year period.
Lawlor said he doesn’t understand how it went on for such an extended period without being detected. “That she was allowed to steal this much money makes me scratch my head,” Lawlor said.
Dow said the thefts — usually taking place once a month, with Scanlon writing a check for herself and then voiding the check on the city ledger — should have been caught during the city’s annual audit.
Lauretti offered an explanation. “The internal controls broke down because she controlled the process,” he said. “There is a structure in place for checks and balances.”
Now, Lauretti said, the city is making sure that process is being done correctly. “We enforce it,” he said.
Dow: City should sue auditor
Dow said the city would appear to have a strong case if it sued the auditor for failing to discover the ongoing theft. He said such a civil lawsuit for damages would be “viable” and “simple.”
Lauretti, in reaction, said it appears those speaking in court on the matter don’t understand how municipal government audits work in Connecticut.
“It’s not standard practice around the state to do line-item audits,” he said.
Lauretti said the city isn’t suing an auditor to try to recover money, and that two different CPA firms actually handled the annual audit over the course of Scanlon’s criminal activity.
One of those auditing firms still does the annual audit for the city, for which Lauretti has been criticized by some political opponents.