A former Cohocton Town Clerk will serve four months in jail for stealing $36,000 from town coffers.
Sandra L. Riley, 50, of Cohocton, was also sentenced Monday by Steuben County Judge Peter Bradstreet to five years probation. She has repaid the town its $36,000.
She resigned the clerk position in October 2014 and pleaded guilty to grand larceny in December.
District Attorney Brooks Baker said the sentence is a message to those who would line their own pockets at taxpayer expense.
“It’s a demonstration of what happens when somebody breaches the public trust,” Baker said. “It’s not being tolerated anymore.”
Riley was immediately remanded to the Steuben County Jail to serve her time.
She stole approximately $36,000 over a six-year period, according to police, from interest and penalties on property tax payments, as well as from the sale of marriage licenses, dog licenses, hunting licenses, Steuben County Landfill tickets and building permits.
Her arrest in September 2014 followed an investigation by the state police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Bath and the New York State Comptroller’s Office.
Town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus told the court Monday that Riley’s role as an elected official makes her offenses particularly heinous.
“This is a person that was elected by the people of our town six times and took an oath of office,” he said at the sentencing. “I believe … a person under those circumstances should be held to a higher standard than others.”
Zigenfus also said Riley’s actions have placed a burden upon town officials to regain the trust of those they serve.
“She has cast a dark shadow over all of us elected town officials due to her actions,” he said. “I have always been proud as the Town Supervisor and Chief Fiscal Officer that I ran a tight ship and swore that I would do my best to make sure that such a thing would not happen under my watch. I now have to answer to the Comptroller of the State of New York for what happened.”
Zigenfus told The Leader the town now has tighter controls in place for tax payments and other transactions, and has contracted an outside firm to oversee the town’s finances on a monthly and yearly basis.
He also said there remains ongoing investigations into Riley’s actions, and believes it’s possible more could be uncovered.
“(The investigation) only went back seven years,” Zigenfus said. Riley served as clerk for 15 years.
As for the town’s future, he said he believes the position is now in good hands.
After Riley’s resignation, the Town Board conducted interviews to fill the unexpired term for the position.
The board selected Martha Hall.
“She came to us from Five Star Bank,” Zigenfus said. “She was an excellent candidate.”
While Hall holds the full powers and responsibilities of an elected Town Clerk, she will need to win election in November to retain the position.