Former water district employee sentenced for embezzlement

A former employee of the Santiam Water Control District in Stayton, Ore., will spend two years in prison for embezzling almost $24,000.

Patricia Anne Gilbert, 51, of Turner, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1 to two counts of felony theft in Marion County Circuit Court. She was sentenced to 24 months in prison, as well as $24,231 in fines and restitution.

Gilbert was hired by the district through a temporary agency and worked eight months as an office manager. The district provides municipal water for the city of Stayton, cooling water to NORPAC Foods, a food processing co-op, and irrigation water for 17,000 acres of farmland.

District Manager Brent Stevenson said Gilbert was provided a credit card with a $500 limit for incidental business expenses. She increased the limit without authorization, Stevenson said, and used the card instead for personal use.

Gilbert also stole three district checks, forged the dual signatures and made them out to herself, Stevenson said.

“Definitely, it was a setback. We’re a really small entity,” Stephenson said.

Once Stevenson learned of the embezzlement, he reported it to the Stayton Police Department. Charges against Gilbert were filed March 21. The district was able to recover the entire amount through insurance and bonding.

Looking ahead, Stevenson said the district will review its procedures and will no longer issue a credit card for incidental expenses.

“I’m happy that she’s prosecuted, and that it won’t happen to somebody else,” Stevenson said.

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