NEWBURGH, Maine — Cindy and Alan Dunton intend to divide and sell their real estate holdings as a means of repaying the town more than $252,000 in the wake of an embezzlement scandal, according to their attorney.
Cindy Dunton admitted in June — in a confession and promissory note she and town officials signed — that she stole nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds during a four-year period while serving as the town’s deputy clerk and treasurer. The Duntons’ attorney, Dale Thistle of Newport, said Alan Dunton knew nothing of his wife’s alleged illegal activities, but has agreed to help her repay the town the stolen money plus legal and auditing fees and interest.
“Cindy intends to continue to cooperate with the investigation,” Thistle said Monday. “She’s determined to put all of her property up on the market and allow that to sell with the underlying purpose of repaying the town.”
Dunton has not returned calls from the Bangor Daily News, and Thistle said he would not allow an interview.
Dunton, who worked in the Newburgh Town Office for 12 years before being fired in March when selectmen discovered serious problems in the town’s finances, was indicted last Wednesday by the Penobscot County grand jury on a charge of Class B theft by unauthorized taking. She faces a Dec. 9 court appearance.
Dunton’s alleged embezzlement has spurred acrimony in Newburgh for months. A group of residents calling themselves “The Fixers” or “Concerned Citizens of Newburgh” has banded together in an effort to comb through the town’s finances. In addition to publishing a blog and soliciting coverage from media organizations, many of the group’s members have asked pointed questions about the status of Dunton’s debt to the town at several selectmen’s meetings.
One of the residents, Claude Bolduc, told the Bangor Daily News last week that a petition is circulating that will outline for Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy “what this has done to our community.” Bolduc said he and others see little chance that Dunton will repay the town
“We recognize that we’re the third mortgagee on Cindy Dunton’s property and we’ll likely see nothing,” said Bolduc.
Dean Beaupain, a Millinocket-based attorney who represents the town of Newburgh, confirmed that the Duntons’ properties are already leveraged. According to language in the promissory note — which technically is a mortgage between the Duntons and the town with an 8 percent annual interest rate — the Duntons own two properties on Lindsey Road and hold mortgages on at least one of them with KeyBank & Trust and Beneficial Maine Inc.
“The Duntons have a significant first mortgage and other liens on their property that are in front of the town’s mortgage,” said Beaupain. “When we entered into the promissory note with her, we agreed to give her a reasonable length of time to voluntarily pay what she could. She has not made any payments to date on the note.”
The town could sue Dunton or attempt to foreclose on the property, but Beaupain said he has recommended to town officials that they allow the legal process to unfold. Selectmen have said in public meetings that they intend to follow Beaupain’s advice.
“If we foreclose on the mortgage, then presumably we need to pay the first mortgage,” said Beaupain. “We are relying on the DA to prosecute this case and see that justice is done.”
Thistle said the Duntons intend to subdivide some of their property in an effort to make it more valuable.
“I don’t know where that process stands,” he said Monday. “One of the concerns is that she has to get permission from the note-holders to do that.”
Class B theft by unauthorized taking carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Almy has said that in addition to prison time for Dunton should she be convicted, he will ask the judge in the case to impose a restitution order so the town can recoup some of the stolen money.