Sentence of 45 days for taking $153K should be a wake-up call for Sanpete

 

The sentence of 45 days in jail for Tracy Kay Mellor, the former town clerk of Fayette, is hard to fathom.

Mellor was also ordered to pay restitution of $153,389.89, which was the total amount of money she was charged with stealing from Fayette, money she took by blatantly writing checks to herself out of town accounts.

But virtually everyone who had been involved with the case and who was in the courtroom at the time she was sentenced agreed the embezzlement, which went on for more than a decade, covered thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, more than was charged.

That’s because the thefts went back for many years, and the state could only charge as much as the statute of limitations would allow. Moreover, it wasn’t possible to retrieve all past records to determine how much, exactly, had been taken.

One might ask what would have happened to Mellor if she had been a garden-variety criminal who had stolen 15 cars worth an average of $10,000 apiece. Would she have avoided prison? How is theft of public funds any different?

On a week-by-week basis, the Messenger covers cases of addicts being arrested for drug possession and distribution, and for crimes that go along with drug abuse, ranging from burglary to domestic violence.             If money is involved in their crimes, the amount is nearly always far less than $153,389.89.

And as we said, in the Mellor case, $153,000 was undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg.

The majority of these addicts are poor, and many also have mental and emotional problems. Because of their addictions, which most people agree is a form of disease, many spend months in jail before their cases are even resolved in court because they don’t have money to bail out.

Once sentenced, these defendants may spend additional time in jail, be sentenced to what ends up being multiple years under intensive supervision in drug court, or go to prison.

While sentencing is an individual matter, the Mellor sentence is not consistent with other public funds cases in Sanpete County over the past 15 years. In 2007, a Snow College cashier who took what turned out to be $300,000 was sentenced to a year in jail.

And in 2004, Kimble Blackburn, the Snow College vice president who took somewhere between $150,000 and $300,000, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $424,000 in restitution. The restitution went beyond covering the amounts the college could prove he had taken to include the state’s costs of investigating the case.

Mellor was in a special position. She was entrusted with handling taxpayer money with little direct oversight. She abused that trust. That fact should lead to an enhanced sentenced, not a lenient one.

Patricia Murphy, a town board member who represented Fayette at Mellor’s sentencing, said as much. “I thought the judge was extremely gentle and nice,” she said. “Especially for someone who had defrauded Fayette over many years.”

“I had requested an apology letter to pull the town together, especially for those who think [Mellor] didn’t commit a serious crime. Tracy presents a very good image, but the crime occurred, intentionally, over many years.”

What’s done is done. But we would like to see the case serve as a wakeup call for Sanpete County. Public funds are sacrosanct. Our community should not tolerate, to any degree, the theft or misappropriation of public funds, regardless of how “upstanding” the thief is.