By Joel Hall
Between Jan. 6 and Sept. 9 in 2003 -- a fraction of six years in which Sharon Stanley served as a clerk for the College Park Police Department -- Stanley took $42,622 from the city and ultimately, the taxpayers of College Park, according to a report released this week by the Fulton County District Attorney's office.
Stanley, now living in Memphis, Tenn., pleaded guilty on Nov. 21 to one count of felony theft before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Karen Woodson. Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard announced Nov. 27 that Stanley was charged as a first-time offender and sentenced to 10 years probation, 40 hours of community service, and ordered to pay back the entire $42,622, as restitution, to the city of College Park.
Following a standard audit conducted by the city in Oct. 2003, it was revealed that $42,622 was missing from the city's cash-bond fund. A forensic investigation conducted by the District Attorney's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed that Stanley made unauthorized cash withdrawals from the fund between Jan. 6 and Jan. 9, 2003, and deposited the money into her personal bank account.
Stanley, who began working for the College Park Police Department on July 3, 1997, was terminated on Nov. 13, 2003, in the wake of the investigation, according to City Manager William E. Johnson.
While Johnson did not begin serving as city manger until July 2005, he said that "any employee or governmental entity ... if they are caught doing wrong ... they should be dealt with accordingly."
Jack Longino, who will soon enter his fourth term as mayor of College Park, said this was not the first time in his previous three terms that someone working for the city had stolen money. However, he could not remember when any had stolen such a large amount.
"Usually it's a small enough amount where we can catch it, and they just repay it," said Longino. "I don't know of any time like this that we've had this amount of money missing.
"Her whole life is ruined over $42,000," Longino added. "It wasn't worth it. I feel bad for anybody who gets in trouble and has to go through the court system ... but if you bring it on yourself, I can't control that. That's taxpayers' money and we can't mess with it."
In addition to Stanley's sentence, Judge Woodson stipulated that Stanley refrain from obtaining employment in any job with access to public funds.
The state recommended that Stanley serve at least one year of her ten-year sentence in prison, but Woodson denied that request.