LAPORTE — Former Kingsford Heights Clerk-Treasurer Patricia Arnett's plea agreement for an official misconduct charge was rejected Wednesday by LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos.
Alevizos said restitution could not be enforced if he accepted the plea agreement knowing Arnett had no ability to pay. Arnett told the court she is unemployed and doesn't have the ability to repay funds she is accused of fraudulently obtaining from the town.
Arnett is accused of falsifying her time cards by listing more hours than she actually worked.
In exchange for her guilty plea to level 6 felony official misconduct, Arnett had agreed to 18 months of probation, during which she would wear an electronic device that senses if alcohol has been consumed and pay back just over $5,000.
The money would go to Kingsford Heights to make up for the hours she put on her time card that she didn’t work after taking over as clerk in 2016.
Defense attorney Nelson Pichardo said she had the money and could pay right away.
"With the help of my family, I do believe I can pay that," she said.
Alevizos said he would not change his mind because her original comments about her financial situation were already on record.
"She is clearly upset about this whole matter and not thinking clearly. She has the ability to pay," Pichardo said.
According to court documents, Arnett was paid $16.55 per hour and almost immediately began turning in time cards reflecting more hours than she actually worked.
Arnett blamed alcoholism for her cheating, and told her attorney she’s been sober for the past 120 days.
Indiana State Police estimated she could have overbilled the town by as much as $12,000 or more before she resigned in early 2017.
Kingsford Heights Town Attorney Jennifer Koethe said the Town Council didn't object to the terms of the plea, but efforts are being made to have the Indiana State Board of Accounts audit the books so nothing gets overlooked.
"We have a number of concerns," she said.
Attorneys for both sides were given two weeks to decide their next steps.