Former Hebron School Official Seeks Special Probation
A former Hebron schools superintendent arrested by state police for allegedly misappropriating thousands of dollars from the district has applied for a special form of probation.
Notice of the application prompted the Hebron Board of Education to hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss a response.
The board voted 4 to 1 to oppose Eleanor Cruz's application and also instructed its chairwoman, Maryanne Leichter, to attend the May 8 hearing in Rockville Superior Court and make a public statement to that effect.
Leichter said Friday that although one board member felt the district had spent enough money pursuing the case against Cruz, the majority felt that it would send the wrong message to walk away now.
"We wanted to be consistent that what she did was not in the best interests of our community," Leichter said.
Cruz has applied for accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation for first-time offenders who are not accused of violent crimes.
Victims must be notified of the application and can oppose it. A prosecutor can oppose it as well.
If a judge finds the defendant's offense is not of a serious nature and the person isnot likely to break the law again, he or she can grant the program.
After a specified period of probation, the charge is dismissed and the defendant's criminal record is purged.
Cruz, 64, was arrested by state police last August and charged with first-degree larceny following an investigation that began in February 2013.
State police began the investigation after Cruz left Hebron after 71/2 years to become superintendent of Plymouth schools, and more than $15,000 in questionable credit card charges and personal reimbursements in Hebron came to light.
Hebron school officials ordered a forensic audit of Cruz's district credit card over a one-year period, which found that about $5,900 had been improperly paid to Cruz or spent on her behalf. The auditor also raised questions about another $9,100 spent by Cruz or on her behalf.
The audit commissioned by Hebron alleged that Cruz, who made $147,000 in the last year of her contract and carried a district credit card with a $50,000 balance during her final 14 months in the district, made improper personal purchases. According to a summary of the audit, they included:
* $2,400 for the use of her car on school business. Her contract called for her to be reimbursed for actual mileage driven at the Internal Revenue Service mileage rate. Her previous contract had provided for $400 a month in reimbursement for the use of her car. She did not turn in an itemized accounting of mileage.
* $390 on her school credit card for fuel, although she was to be reimbursed for actual mileage.
* $352 on the school credit card in personal purchases at stores such as Nordstrom Rack and a Wegmans grocery store in Maryland.
* $2,375 for a consultant to analyze data from the Plymouth school system. The auditor described the contract as personal, because Plymouth is where Cruz was going to work next, and said it had nothing to do with Hebron.
* $960 on a school charge account at Ted's grocery store in Hebron for items including $89.72 for baking supplies, on Dec. 15, 2012, the day after her last day of employment with Hebron. The board could not determine whether most purchases were for legitimate school business because receipts were not provided.
* $1,406 on the same school charge card for gardening and landscaping supplies at two businesses, although no receipts were provided.
* $790 on the district credit card for purchases at a grocery store in Essex. Because no receipts were provided to the board, the legitimacy of the purchases could not be determined.
* $6,066 at area food stores, farm markets, restaurants, online retailers, florists, a toy store and a car wash. Receipts lacked details or the receipt was cut, eliminating the detail.
Following the state police investigation, Cruz was charged with first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community, which alleges the theft of $2,000 or more from a government entity.
Following her arrest, Cruz, who was making $175,000 a year in Plymouth, was placed on paid administrative leave by the school board and agreed to resign in September. The agreement cost Plymouth about $70,000.
Hebron has spent more than $60,000 on legal fees, according to district officials.
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