The former treasurer of the Arlington Elementary PTA claimed it was in part a lack of training that led her to steal more than $24,000 from the organization during 2012.
When she was sentenced Monday morning, Susan M. Rothenberger, of the 5100 block of Arlington Park Boulevard, told Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck she was “truly sorry” for the theft, but felt as if “mistakes were made on both sides.”
“I feel like I’m being made to pay for the whole year,” she said.
As she spoke, Surbeck shook his head slightly.
“This is not the board’s fault. This is not the PTA’s fault,” he told her. “Boards do not train treasurers to be honest.”
Rothenberger pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft in March. She was charged in September after an audit by the Indiana PTA found discrepancies in the association’s accounting records.
According to testimony during Monday’s hearing, some of the loss was directly related to the withdrawal of money from the account; some was from overdraft fees incurred when the money was taken out.
The audit came at the request of the principal of the elementary school after the account was found to be overdrawn, according to court documents.
The audit blamed the discrepancies on the use of a debit card solely in Rothenberger’s control as the treasurer of the organization.
She admitted to using the debit card for cash withdrawals, according to court documents.
Arlington Principal Diane Dikeolakos said the organization, while not overseen by the school, provides a very necessary service to the students, helping bridge the gap in funding between what is needed and what is provided by the state.
She told the court that since Rothenberger’s theft, the students have missed out on field trips, assemblies and needed classroom supplies because the money is not there now.
Surbeck sentenced Rothenberger to a three-year sentence, but ordered one year suspended and the other two years executed and said those could be served on an alternative sentencing, such as home detention.
When she came to court Monday, Rothenberger had an outstanding warrant from a probation violation in a case in Michigan.
Her attorney asked for a delay in starting to serve her sentence so she could take care of the matter. Surbeck granted the request.
Rothenberger has a prior misdemeanor conviction in Allen County for conversion.
As she started to leave the courtroom Monday morning, the group from Arlington Elementary School headed to the door first. Rothenberger returned quickly to her seat and waited for them to leave before she walked out alone.