Former Guthrie Township Trustee Pleads Guilty to Official Misconduct - Theft charges dismissed
LAWRENCE COUNTY - FEBRUARY 6, 2023 - Former Guthrie Township Trustee Robert Awbrey pled guilty to Official misconduct charges in Lawrence County Superior Court I on Monday. The charges of theft were dismissed by the court in a plea agreement with Lawrence County Prosecutor's office.
Both the theft charge, and Official Misconduct charge are Level-6 Felonies.
Photo: Former Guthrie Township Trustee Robert Awbrey released a statement to Lawrence County about today's court proceedings.
Judge John Plummer III accepted Awbrey's plea agreement suspending Awbrey's 910 day sentence to the Indiana Department of Correction with a two-year non-supervised probation for Official Conduct.
" This has been very stressful for me for a long time. Basically, as I said from the start, I did not knowingly steal anything. I told the court that I failed to do things properly because either I didn't know or misunderstood, and in some cases I just failed to do things properly," said Awbrey.
Awbrey can have the official misconduct charges dropped to a misdemeanor in a couple of years.
Awbrey will have to pay restitution to the State of Indiana that was overpaid to himself and on items there was no proper documentation for.
The case was prosecuted by Samuel Arp II and Awbrey was represented by Scott Callahan.
The former Guthrie Township Trustee Robert Awbrey was charged with official misconduct, and theft back on July 31, 2019.
Robert Awbrey was appointed as Guthrie Township Trustee on May 1, 2016, and his wife Teri was appointed as clerk.
Awbrey resigned from the position on December 23, 2018. Awbrey was to receive a salary of $4,200 a year. Following his resignation, the Indiana State Board of Accounts conducted an audit of the township office.
According to State Board of Accounts he was paid the following amounts.
2016 - $5,625.33
2017 - $8,715.02
2018 - $25,810.00
According to the State Board of Accounts records Awbrey wrote checks to reimburse himself and did not provide documentation for what the check were written for.
The total the amount of the checks was written for include:
2016 - $780
2017 - $6,743.98
2018 - $2,709.90
Total - $10,233.88
The township advisory board was to create a salary ordinance for all employees; however, the township board only met on as needed basis and did not create a salary ordinance to increase Awbrey's pay.
In addition to the criminal charges, Awbrey faces a civil lawsuit by the State of Indiana which seeks damages.
The State of Indiana civil lawsuit against Robert Awbrey has been stayed since October 28, 2020 on a motion by Attorney Scott Callahan until the criminal matter can be resolved. In the civil complaint by the Attorney General's office they are seeking reimbursement of public funds that were either, misappropriated, illegally received, illegally retained, unaccounted for or not paid over money received, obtained by fraud, and/or wrongfully withheld.
According to the civil action the State Attorney General's office maintains that $14,678.46 was overpaid in compensation. In addition, Awbrey was overpaid $1,200 in office rent, In addition during the audit period from the State Board of Accounts a amount of $10,233.88 was disbursed in the form of 13 checks from May 14, 2016 to September 3, 2018. According to the court record there were no supporting documentation to validate the payments.
Due to this action of Awbrey the State of Indiana suffered a loss of $26,12.34 and due to Awbrey's action the State Board of Accounts incurred additional audit costs of $6,767.17.
A total judgment from the State of Indiana was requested in the amount of $32,879.51 and on the behalf of Guthrie Township the Attorney General Office requested three times the actual loss in the amount of $78,337.02.
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