NEWBURGH, Maine — A group of concerned citizens in Newburgh says it has gathered more than 300 signatures from townspeople calling for the stiffest possible sentence for accused embezzler Cindy Dunton.
Dunton, the town’s former deputy treasurer, faces a charge of Class B theft by unauthorized taking for allegedly embezzling nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds dating back four years. Dunton, who was fired in March 2010 after selectmen discov-ered financial discrepancies, is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 20 at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
The group of Newburgh residents, which calls itself “Concerned Citizens of Newburgh” or “The Fixers,” has been investigating the town’s finances for more than a year. They noticed financial irregularities in the town’s books in early 2010, though they say they had not traced the irregularities to Dunton prior to her firing.
In a promissory note she signed with the town pledging to pay back the money, Dunton admitted she stole the funds. Claude Bolduc, one of the founders of The Fixers, said he and others are worried that Dunton will “get off easy” in terms of the judicial system’s actions against her.
“There’s a fair amount of anger out there,” he said recently during a meeting of concerned citizens at his kitchen table. “We think the sentence ought to be reflective [of] how much was stolen.”
Bolduc said he and a group of volunteers have gathered more than 300 signatures, which they intend to submit to whichever judge presides over Dunton’s arraignment. Most of the signatures were gathered at the town’s polling place during the November elections, though the group still is collecting signatures through its website because, members said, embezzlement by public officials is an issue of statewide concern. Language on the petition calls for “no leniency in this case.”
“Considering the depth and breadth of her crimes, anything less than the maximum allowable sentence will be considered an injustice. … Damage has been done that will take years to overcome,” reads the petition. “Please do not allow her to profit from her misdeeds.”
Chris Yountz, another of the concerned citizens, said the group also is rallying Newburgh residents to attend the Jan. 20 hearing en masse.
“We don’t want her to get off with probation and three months in jail or something like that,” Yountz said. “Cindy’s crime was a tremendous betrayal of public trust.”
Bolduc, Yountz and other members of the group said if the judge at Dunton’s arraignment won’t accept the petition, they will present it to Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy. They also said they want to present the petition at the arraignment in case a plea bargain with Dunton is announced at that time.
Class B theft by unauthorized taking, for which Dunton was indicted by a grand jury in October, is the most serious form of larceny there is, comparable only to thefts of firearms and robberies involving dangerous weapons, according to Maine law. Class B theft is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Neither Dunton nor Dale Thistle, her Newport-based attorney, has returned calls seeking comment from the Bangor Daily News.
Almy applauded the efforts by the citizens group.
“I hope they all come to court,” Almy said. “What these citizens are doing is very helpful, and I really hope that they’re going to tell the judge what they think. This is the public’s business, and as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier.”
Asked what sentence he will seek for Dunton if she is convicted, Almy declined to answer other than to say, “It should be a significant sentence, because this is a significant matter.”