Ex-director gets 90 days jail for theftThe former Superior Housing Authority director who stole $10,000 from the agency will spend 90 days in jail as a condition of probation.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The former Superior Housing Authority director who stole $10,000 from the agency will spend 90 days in jail as a condition of probation.
Debra Lynn Waterman, 51, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft – one felony and one misdemeanor – in Douglas County Court last week for charging thousands of dollars in personal purchases on the SHA credit card while she served as the agency’s director.
A deferred judgment of conviction was entered on the felony charge, with a chance for it to be dismissed if Waterman successfully completes probation for the misdemeanor charge.
Thursday, Judge George Glonek listened to arguments from lawyers and statements by Waterman herself before sentencing her to one-year probation with conditions she serves 90 days in jail, pays a $500 fine and restitution of $10,000 to the housing authority. Waterman must also undergo personal counseling and follow any recommendations.
During that year, maximum penalties for both charges – up to six years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 for the felony and up to nine months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 for the misdemeanor – will hang over Waterman’s head and could be imposed should her probation be revoked.
The former housing authority director, who has been involved in such community efforts as the Catlin Greens project, Stuff the Bus and the Superior Rotary, did not defend her actions. She told the court her husband lost his job and when he found a new one, it paid half as much as his former job. Other problems included one of her daughters moving home and uninsured bills resulting from a car accident put pressure on family finances.
“I was trying to hold things together and I picked a really stupid way to do it,” Waterman said. She told the judge she felt horrible about what she had done, and how it reflected on the housing authority, where she had worked for 16 years.
“They didn’t deserve this,” Waterman said.
Her attorney, Steve Bick, said the Superior woman has already suffered consequences from her actions. Waterman resigned September 2008, losing an annual paycheck of approximately $70,000. She has been unable since to find employment.
Publicity about the case has caused her family embarrassment although they have done nothing wrong, Waterman said with tears in her eyes.
“It’s been hard for me and it should be,” she told the courtroom.
This is Waterman’s first criminal conviction. Her only other brushes with the law had been a speeding ticket in 2006 and a seat belt violation in 2005. Bick requested no jail sentence for his client. There is no need to protect the public, he said.
“It’s a first and only criminal offense,” Bick said. “It’s never going to happen again.
Assistant District Attorney Jim Boughner argued that jail time was warranted. Waterman was in a position of public trust and she abused that, he told the court. She stole money that was slated to help people in need. SHA is a public agency that provides housing on a sliding-fee scale to those who meet income eligibility guidelines. The theft was serious, Boughner said, and should not be downplayed with a light sentence. He argued for six months in jail.
Glonek noted that Waterman has accepted responsibility for her crime and that restitution would be repaid immediately out of money the housing has been holding since her resignation. Although the ex-SHA director does not pose a threat to the community, the judge said, there should be a punitive component to the sentence.
“I do believe a jail sentence is fair, reasonable and just,” Glonek said. “A punitive component is necessary in this type of matter so the seriousness of the offense is not depreciated.”
He referred to the case of Nancy Roulston, a Superior Public Library employee who pleaded guilty to stealing $15,000 from the library. She received a 30-day jail sentence as part of her probation. Waterman’s case is more serious, Glonek said.
“She was the person in charge of the housing authority,” he said, and “The money that she misused could have been used to help other people in need.”