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Former Lewis election commissioner sentenced over improper payments

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LOWVILLE — A former Lewis County election commissioner who authorized improper payments to her daughter got an earful from the judge during sentencing Wednesday in County Court.

“Honesty will get you a lot further than this lie you continue to perpetuate,” acting County Judge Donald E. Todd told Elaine McLear.

Mrs. Mc-Lear, 56, Van Amber Road, New Bremen, was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, restitution already paid and a $50 court fee on two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, to which she pleaded guilty April 26.

Judge Todd also ordered her to complete 347 hours of community service. “That’s one hour for each dollar you stole from the taxpayers,” he said.

Mrs. McLear waived her right to appeal.

She was accused of submitting purchase orders for payments to her daughter, Diane McLear, of $35 for an election inspector training session in August 2011, $120 for working at the Sept. 13, 2011, primary election and $192 for working at the Nov. 8, 2011, general election.

Before sentencing, Judge Todd said he was tempted to withdraw the plea offer and require some weekend jail time after learning that Mrs. McLear had told probation she had just made an innocent mistake.

“Either you’re living in a fantasy world or you think I’m plain stupid,” he said.

The judge suggested that given the multiple incidents, Mrs. McLear likely was trying to help her daughter through some trying financial times. By not admitting that, she insulted the court and the county, he said.

Judge Todd, who serves in Oswego County, noted that his grandfather was a former Republican county election commissioner. “He served with honor and distinction,” the judge said. “You failed miserably in that.”

Mrs. McLear, who had been the Democratic commissioner since 1997, was suspended without pay Dec. 28, 2011.

Last year, she sued the county, seeking reinstatement and back pay, and a state Supreme Court judge ruled in her favor, agreeing election commissioners can be removed from office only by the governor. However, the county appealed the decision, keeping Mrs. McLear from returning to work until that process was completed, and her term has since expired.

Results of the appeal will determine whether the county will be required to pay Mrs. McLear, who had an annual salary of about $35,000, for her year under suspension.

In another case involving a former Lewis County employee, Judge Todd ruled that a third-degree grand larceny charge lodged against former trail coordinator Robert C. Diehl, 43, Martinsburg, should be changed to third-degree attempted grand larceny. However, he upheld charges of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and official misconduct in the case, which is scheduled for trial Sept. 30.

Mr. Diehl, who did not appear in court Wednesday, was accused of submitting a purchase order and voucher for payment on Oct. 25 for stone products from V.S. Virkler & Son, Lowville, that included $3,262.97 worth of gravel that was delivered to his residence for his personal use.

Judge Todd said the charge should be changed because Mr. Diehl personally paid off the bill, before the county’s check was cashed, after a Virkler employee noticed the issue. However, a larceny “came dangerously close to completion,” he said.

Mr. Diehl in late May also filed a civil suit against the county seeking his job back.

In other conflict cases handled by Judge Todd:

Andrew Meda, 33, Lowville, had a trial set for the week of Dec. 2 in his case of third-degree criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance. He was accused of selling heroin in December in Lowville.

Carissa J. Blair, 31, of 7124 Loson Road, had sentencing adjourned to Aug. 15 on charges of driving while ability impaired by drugs and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. She was stopped Jan. 26 on Loson Road in the town of Watson.

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