Court documents: $50,000 stolen by ex-employee of Paxton Park District

PAXTON — Documents filed Thursday in Ford County Circuit Court revealed that a former employee of the Paxton Park District allegedly spent $50,000 on personal merchandise using park district credit cards over a four-year period.

State’s Attorney Matt Fitton on Thursday charged Beth E. Tabor, 43, of Paxton, with one count of theft of between $10,000 and $100,000. The Class 2 felony is punishable by up to four years of probation to a maximum of three to seven years in prison.

Tabor, a former administrative assistant for the park district, was arrested Tuesday after a court-ordered search of her home. She remained Friday at the Ford County jail on a $100,000 bond, meaning she must pay $10,000 to be released.

Public defender Harvey Welch has been appointed to represent Tabor, and a preliminary hearing is set for 9:15 a.m. March 6.

Illinois State Police investigator Brad Cosgrove wrote in a verified statement of arrest filed in court that police believe Tabor used park district credit cards to buy “approximately $50,000 worth of personal merchandise.” The purchases were made “from 2006 through 2010,” Cosgrove wrote.

Earlier in the week, police declined to specify how much money Tabor allegedly stole, saying only that the amount was between $10,000 and $100,000.
Police also declined to say what items were bought; and Cosgrove’s statement did not list any specific items. Fitton said Friday that he could not say what items were bought because he had not seen complete police reports.

The only other information court documents disclosed was that Tabor was arrested at 11:50 p.m. Tuesday at her home in the 200 block of West Pine Street.

A news release from District 21 state police on Wednesday said Tabor was arrested by Illinois State Police Zone 3 agents, Paxton police and Ford County sheriff’s deputies following the execution of a search warrant at her home.

Investigators recovered numerous items from her home that were believed to have been purchased for personal use while she was employed by the park district from 2006 until May 2011, the release said.

On Wednesday, park district officials were saddened by the news of Tabor’s arrest.

“If the allegations prove to be true, then it’s definitely unfortunate,” said Recreation Director Neal McKenry.

“I agree with Neal,” said park board President Eric Evans. “If everything comes out to be true, it is very unfortunate, and it’s just hard to believe that somebody can take from the children of the community and the taxpayers of the community. It’s just hard to believe somebody’s willing to do that. It’s just a sad thing.”

Evans said the park district asked police to investigate the possibility of misappropriated funds after Tabor was laid off in May 2011. Before asking for an investigation, Evans said, the park district conducted its own audit.

“We had a forensic accountant come in, and he checked everything out and found some stuff that just wasn’t kosher,” Evans said.

Earlier, at the April 2011 park board meeting, the board’s attorney, Bob Martensen, announced that the park district’s bookkeeping was “a mess” in the past year, when Tabor was the only full-time employee of the park district.

Martensen said the blame could be spread “all around,” from the board members to Tabor to accountant Nick Fiorillo to himself.

The problems were brought to light at a meeting in which the district’s tentative combined budget and appropriation ordinance was being discussed.

Among the troubles pointed out by Martensen: board members did not receive comprehensive monthly financial reports that would have allowed them to fully understand where the budget stands; and restricted funds were used to pay unrestricted bills, and vice versa.

Tabor mentioned at that meeting that she personally paid for upwards of $1,000 worth of program supplies, such as soccer balls and basketballs, because the park district did not have funds available at the time.

Tabor was laid off the following month due to a lack of funds available to keep her on the payroll while also hiring a full-time recreation director.

The park district’s current tax levy includes $13,000 in property taxes to be used to cover costs of unemployment compensation for Tabor.

Martensen said Wednesday that he doubts the pending criminal case will affect the unemployment benefits Tabor has been receiving.

Paxton Police Chief Bob Bane said his department conducted an initial investigation into the alleged theft before asking for assistance from state police.

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