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Former Alburnett city clerk pleads guilty to embezzling money from city

Trish Mehaffey, CR Gazette –

A former Alburnett city clerk pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling more than $37,000 from the city between 2006 and 2009.

Amber Ransom, formerly Amber Franklin, 45, of Alburnett, pleaded guilty to first-degree theft. The penalty for the felony charge is 10 years in prison, but the state will recommend five years probation for Ransom in exchange for her guilty plea and $37,013 in restitution to the city.

Sentencing is set for April 2 in Linn County District Court.

According to a state audit report, $102,980 was misappropriated during Ransom’s employment as the city clerk.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott said the $37,013 was an negotiated amount in the plea agreement. Ransom agreed to cash out her only asset, IPERS – city retirement account, which will go directly to the city. After taxes, that will be around $8,000, and she will have the pay the rest while on probation, he said.

Scott said the $37,013 was an amount nobody could argue that she embezzled and the state could prove if the case went to trial.

Judith O’Donohoe, Ransom’s attorney, said Ransom is admitting to embezzling that amount and the rest the defense claims is a result of improper or bad accounting methods.

Ransom during the hearing admitted to writing extra unauthorized payroll checks to herself, taking money out of petty cash and charging items to the city credit card for her personal use.

Scott said the city is also considering filing a civil action against her to recover the other misappropriated funds reported in the city audit.

Ransom, employed from Jan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 2009, resigned after the mayor asked her to research public accounting firms to audit the city’s finances.

According to the audit, Franklin paid herself $12,664 in unauthorized payroll and $2,709 for paid time off she wasn’t entitled to receive and $48,812 for which there was no explanation or support.

There also were improper disbursements of $6,071 of personal purchases Franklin made using the city’s credit card and $6,852 of personal purchases made with the city’s checking account, according to the audit. An additional $7,245 of checks were issued for petty cash.

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