CANTON A former Pitcairn town supervisor pleaded not guilty in St. Lawrence County Court Monday morning after being indicted for grand larceny for allegedly embezzling $35,000 of municipal funds.
Susan M. Smith, 39, Harrisville, said nothing as she left the court on her own recognizance following a brief appearance before Judge Jerome J. Richards.
She is certainly not a flight risk and has no criminal history, defense attorney Gary W. Miles told the court. Shell be here when shes needed.
Assistant state Attorney General Bridget Holohan Scally, who is prosecuting the case, said her office is prepared to take the case to trial. Counsel has 45 days to prepare motions.
Mrs. Smiths case was referred to the Attorney Generals office by the state Comptrollers Office following an audit. St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé said her office will not be participating in the prosecution in order to avoid any possible appearance of impropriety, as Mrs. Smith is the daughter of St. Lawrence County Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction.
The 10-count indictment unsealed in county court charges Mrs. Smith with third-degree grand larceny, four counts of offering a false instrument for filing, four counts of tampering with physical evidence and criminal possession of a forged instrument. The top count carries a maximum state prison sentence of two-and-one-third to seven years. It was not immediately clear Monday how much additional time the remaining charges might carry.
Mrs. Smith, Pitcairn town supervisor from Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2009, is accused of issuing about $35,000 in unauthorized payments to herself and others from town accounts at Community Bank, N.A., where she was a branch manager. She allegedly issued and cashed the checks at the branch between December 2008 and December 2009.
When the state Comptrollers Office questioned some of the payments during a risk assessment, Mrs. Smith prepared and submitted false documentation, according to the indictment, including a forged bank memo that falsely indicated that she had credited funds back to the town.
Corruption wastes taxpayer money and, perhaps even worse, erodes the publics trust in its government, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. This individual will be brought to justice for cheating hard-working taxpayers to line her own pockets and then attempting to cover up the crime.
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli also took aim at municipal leadership for inadequate oversight.
Pitcairns town officials failed in their responsibility to oversee financial operations, Mr. DiNapoli said. We urge our localities, large and small, to use basic checks and balances to deter criminal activity.
Asked about the towns financial procedures later Monday, Supervisor Clyde Sam Frank Jr. replied that all of that was adjusted in the response to the audit.
I keep in close contact with the comptrollers office, said Mr. Frank, who took office as supervisor on Jan. 1. If theres something I dont understand, I just call them. Theyve been very helpful.
Mr. Frank did not immediately know how much had been spent on legal fees as a result of the case, but said he was hopeful that Pitcairn would ultimately recoup its losses.
Look, arent we all? he replied.