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Former Ostrander City Clerk sentenced to jail and home monitoring

Fri, Apr 25th, 2003
Posted in Features

Saying that he wanted to send a message to others who hold a position of trust, that abuses of power will be dealt with harshly, Judge Robert Benson sentenced former Ostrander City Clerk Tonya Michelle Burns to 15 days in jail, 130 days electric home monitoring and fines totalling $2,000.

"You were in a position of trust," Benson told Burns prior to sentencing in Fillmore County District Court on Monday. "And you abused it greatly."

Burns was sentenced after pleading guilty to one felony count of theft by check and one felony count of credit card fraud. The charges stem from several incidents in 2002 where Burns misused a city owned credit card and wrote unauthorized checks on the city account.

According to the criminal complaint, Burns, 29, of Cresco, attempted to sell a computer to CPU Computers in Cresco on October 10, 2002. The owner of the store became suspicious and contacted the manufacturer and found that the computer had been originally sold to the city of Ostrander.

Upon further investigation by Ostrander Police Chief Dave Hadland, it was found that the computer in question was paid for by a pre-authorized debit with the Security State Bank, without the knowledge of the Ostrander City Council. In addition, Burns charged more than $3,500 on a city owned credit card between August 1 and August 25.

Burns was represented in court by Attorney David Joerg, who told the court that Burns was led by desperate circumstances to steal. Joerg said that at the time of the criminal activity, Burns was struggling to support her family by herself and was under tremendous pressure from her boss, the mayor of Ostrander. Burns is a single mother of four children, including twin three year olds. Before sentencing, Burns read a letter of apology to the people of Ostrander.

On the felony theft charge, Judge Robert Benson ordered a stay of imposition for five years. Benson ordered Burns to serve 30 days in jail, of which 15 days could be served through electric home monitoring. He also fined Burns $1,000 and ordered her to pay restitution of $5,384, at a rate of no less than $50 per month. Benson further ordered that the defendant should write a letter of apology to the citizens of Ostrander and that Burns could not be employed in a position of public trust during the term of her probation.

Benson also imposed a stay of imposition for 10 years on the felony credit card fraud and ordered Burns to serve 120 days in jail, which will be served through electric home monitioring. Benson clarified that two days of electric home monitoring equals one day served in jail. Benson also fined Burns $1,000.

Both sentences will be served concurently, which means that Burns will serve 15 days in jail and 130 days of electric home monitoring.

Burns was ordered to report to the Fillmore County Jail on Friday, April 25, to begin serving her jail time.

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