Ashland Township trustee arrested, charged with stealing $270k

MORGAN COUNTY, Ind. - Ashland Township Trustee Sandra Norman was arrested Wednesday, accused of stealing $270,576 in taxpayer money.

Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega filed felony criminal theft and official misconduct charges against Norman, an official exposed by the Call 6 Investigators for misusing township funds.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Norman withdrew more than $270,000 by writing checks to herself, friends and her boyfriend.

When Indiana State Police detective Amy Johnson met with Norman at a truck stop, Norman became emotional, according to the report.

“Ms. Norman stated she even used some of the unauthorized checks on her and for family vacations, the kids' school activities, etc,” according to the affidavit. “Ms. Norman stated she has nothing to show for the money she took, it just went to people she wanted to help and because of that she was taken advantage of by friends and family. Ms. Norman stated she wants to pay the money back, even if she has to work three or four jobs.”

As the Call 6 Investigators have previously reported, Norman is also facing first-of-their-kind charges and possible removal from office.

Prosecutor Steve Sonnega charged Norman with two infractions for failure to file reports, including the fiscal year 2012 annual report and 100-R report, which also includes compensation of officers and employees.

Norman pleaded not guilty and in June, refused to talk to Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney on her way out of court.

"No comment," Norman told Kenney. "You guys should stop. I said no comment."

Under Indiana law, a public official who fails to keep financial books can be removed from office.

Norman's case is the first time in Indiana history that a county prosecutor has taken such action against a public official.

A judge would have to find Norman guilty and impose forfeiture of office as a penalty.

As for the criminal theft and misconduct charges filed this week, a jury trial is scheduled for February 26, 2014.

The State Board of Accounts audit recently requested Norman repay $7,860.23  to the taxpayers for purchases made without supporting documentation, including hotel stays, mileage, conferences, utilities, repair work and other expenses.

Morgan County Republican Chairman Daniel Elliott told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney once the legal process is complete and there's a vacancy, the party will hold a caucus to select a new Ashland Township trustee.

Norman replaced her mother, Dorothy Brummett, who submitted her resignation in 2010 saying the township was out of money for poor relief  .

The audit just released also criticized Ashland Township for not complying with Internal Revenue Service directives to remit income tax and Social Security withholdings.

Auditors questioned why board minutes were missing for most meetings and no budget has been approved since the year 2008.

In 2010, then-Trustee Brummett admitted to Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney that because of personal issues, she didn't do the best job as trustee.

"I'm not dealing with all the things that have happened in my life," she said in 2010. "I just basically shut down."

Nearly three years ago, Norman told Kenney she would do her best to clear up the problems in the township office.

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