St. Mary

Aug 23, 2012 8:35 PM by Associated Press

Berwick councilwoman arrested, accused of theft

BERWICK, La. (AP) - A former Berwick Town councilwoman was arrested Thursday on charges of felony theft and forgery. Louisiana State Police said Penny T. Crappell, 47, of Berwick, surrendered to authorities at the St. Mary Parish Jail. Bond has not been set. The Daily Review reports the charges cap a month-long investigation by Louisiana State Police into the alleged misappropriation of about $58,000 at Berwick Elementary School, where Crappell was a secretary and bookkeeper. Authorities said they found evidence that indicated Crappell used her position at the school to allegedly steal School Board funds for her personal use. Detectives say she forged the name of an employee at the school to negotiate some of the 53 false transactions totaling about $58,000. Crappell resigned both her town council and school system positions Wednesday. She had been on medical leave since mid-May. In a resignation letter to the town, she cited "personal issues that need my immediate attention." The letter to the school system gave no reason for her departure, Superintendent Donald Aguillard said. "The fallout from the recent audit of the Berwick Elementary School activity fund is regrettable," Aguillard said in a statement. "The public is assured of our unwavering commitment that sound administrative and financial practice is the norm and not the unexpected." The district also is committed to auditing all schools and programs using an accelerated 3-year cycle, he said. Berwick Town Attorney Allen McElroy said a special council meeting will be held next week to call a special election for her seat. The first available date to hold an election is April 6 with a runoff, if necessary, on May 4. An interim councilman will need to be named. Mayor Louis Ratcliff said he does not yet know whom he will recommend to the council.

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