MV Principal theft case held for trial

The Mountain View Elementary school principal accused of stealing thousands in school district funds told police she deposited the money in her personal bank account out of professional embarrassment and fear over what people would think about her personal life, court records indicate.
Christine Ann Kelly, 39, of Tunkhannock, will now face those charges in the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas after a Clifford district court judge ruled Tuesday (Oct. 3), that there was sufficient evidence for her to stand trial in the theft of $2,600 of district monies.
Magisterial District Judge Suzanne Brainard sent the case up to county court after hearing testimony from county Detective John V. Oliver, a former state trooper now working for the county. Oliver interviewed Kelly in August when Mountain View School District Superintendent Karen Voigt contacted his office after repeatedly questioning Kelly about $2,600 missing from a $8,500 disbursement issued for a sixth grade trip to Washington, D.C.
Under questioning by First Assistant District Attorney Bill Urbanski, Oliver recounted his August interview with Kelly when she described admitted to taking the money and putting it in her bank account.
“‘When I returned, Voight had asked me about it again,” Oliver testified, quoting the defendant. “‘I looked for it and didn’t find it and then I found it at a later time a couple of days later,’ but at this point she was embarrassed to basically talk to Voigt about it,” Oliver said, describing the scene.
“So she had the money and we said, ‘What did you do with the money at that point?’ and she goes, ‘I put it in my personal bank account.’ ”
Kelly, who appeared in Brainard’s court seated next to defense attorney Robert J. Munley wearing a blue mid-length sweater and black pants, faces charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. Kelly, whose 2013 salary is listed at over $75,000 a year, did not testify Tuesday. Mountain View school officials suspended her last month.
Munley asked Brainard to dismiss the charges as he said under Pennsylvania’s theft law his client lacked the intent to deprive the school district of the money.
“There’s no intent in this case because the money was in fact replaced,” Munley argued.
Munley also criticized the district’s lack of policies on handling monies and for saddling Kelly with those added responsibilities on top of overseeing the school’s more than 1,000 pupils.
But Urbanski asked Brainard to look to the timeline of events leading up to Kelly’s return of the money and the context in which she acted.
“The $8,500 check was cashed in the spring by Ms. Kelly; it was divided up into envelopes. $2,600 turns up missing. We find that in May or June Ms. Kelly deposited that money in her own personal bank account and it was only until August when law enforcement is breathing down her neck that she decides that she needs to fess up and repay the money,” Urbanski said.
In an affidavit filed in the case, Oliver described how suspicions peaked since Kelly had some form of involvement with that and other school fundraising activities.
“Voigt explained that right after Kelly cashed an $8,000 school district check, she insisted on storing the money in her office, rather than in the school safe,” Oliver wrote in his affidavit.
“Voigt stated that Kelly then, the following day, divided the money up into envelopes for specific activities and then placed those envelopes in the safe. Voigt stated that Kelly then notified all involved persons that she was not going to attend the trip because she had to have surgery during the trip’s time frame,” the affidavit continued. School officials later could not account for $2,600.
Oliver also wrote in his affidavit that Voigt also related to him to other incidents involving Kelly but for which she faces no criminal charges. One involved an informal collection of small cash donations from faculty and staff, one intended for the family of a student whose family had lost their home and possessions in a fire.
“Voigt explained that in each case, Kelly was in charge of giving the person to receive the donations that cash. Voigt stated that there was no way to know how much money was to be donated because Kelly was in charge of counting and distributing the money. Voigt stated that in the past, the amount was usually between $300 and $400. Voigt stated that she expected the money intended for the fire victim to be much higher than that amount,” Oliver wrote.
Voigt said focus again centered on Kelly in the spring of 2017 after she sought over $1,000 in school district reimbursements for purchases.
However, when later questioned by Oliver and Stoud, she in one case could only produce undated receipts and in another claimed she used Amazon and that the items were on back order.
“After specifically explaining that Amazon does not sell a product and put it on back order, Kelly finally admitted that she lied and just made the purchase two days earlier,” Oliver wrote in the affidavit.
Police have not charged Kelly in connection with that incident.
Oliver said that Kelly, who returned to work in June after a medical absence, was again asked to search for the missing school field trip money and later found it in her desk but still didn’t return it out of embarrassment because of how it would make her look incompetent and because of a personal relationship she was involved in.
She told detectives that she planned to return it at a later date when her strained relationship with Voigt had improved.
“I asked Kelly what she did with the money after she found it. Kelly stated that she deposited the money in her personal bank account,” Oliver wrote.
Kelly will next appear in Montrose for formal arraignment in Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas.

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