Archive for Wednesday, December 18, 2002

District attorney:figure reaches as high as $30,000

Plea bargain offer now off the table

December 18, 2002

A former city of Basehor employee charged with stealing public funds could have cost the city as much as $30,000, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Jennifer Srubas-Willis, a former city clerk in charge of handling utility billing and municipal court costs, is charged in Leavenworth County District Court with felony theft and misuse of public funds.

Both counts are felonies.

Leavenworth County District Attorney Frank Kohl said as much as $17,000 is thought to have been stolen from the city, and a figure as high as $13,000 could have been lost to the city "as result of mishandling of records, intentionally or non-intentionally."

Srubas-Willis, 27, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday in district court. However, the hearing was continued until 1 p.m. Feb. 5 because her attorney, Catalina Thompson of Leavenworth, was not prepared to move forward with the case.

Kohl said a deal was proposed to resolve the case, offering to drop the felony theft charge -- the lower class felony of the two charges -- in exchange for pleading to misuse of public funds and making a full restitution of the money taken.

The deal was left on the table and Kohl said another deal will not be offered.

"I'm not going to be interested in any kind of plea," he said.

"That's like going to the boats, rolling the dice to see if it lands on a winner, and then placing your bet," he added.

Kohl also said the case is being treated more seriously because public funds were involved.

"If you work for a private corporation you victimize one person," Kohl said. "But if you work for the city or a government entity you victimize the city.

"You're stealing from the population and abusing public trust."

Srubas-Willis, a 1992 graduate of Basehor-Linwood High School, was hired as assistant city clerk in June 2001. She was fired in July 2002.

The city never gave an official reason for her dismissal.

An investigation into missing city funds began in September and concluded in November. Srubas-Willis was arrested at her Tonganoxie home Nov. 19.

Before working for the city, Srubas-Willis was in the accounting departments of several different companies. She has worked for a non-profit organization, an insurance firm and a doctor's office.

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