Mechanic Falls school committee member accused of stealing from former employer

Posted June 30, 2012, at 5:20 a.m.
Last modified July 19, 2012, at 4:18 p.m.

AUBURN, Maine — The budget subcommittee chairwoman on the RSU 16 School Committee was charged earlier this month with stealing from her former employer.

Terri L. Arsenault, 40, of Mechanic Falls was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury on two felony counts of theft by deception.

Her husband, Michael, 43, was indicted on a single charge of felony theft by deception.

The two were scheduled to appear in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Thursday for their arraignments but they were rescheduled to July 26 after their attorneys told the court they were not available.

Terri Arsenault is a longtime Mechanic Falls school board member and since 2010 has served on the RSU 16 School Committee, which is responsible for schools in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland.

Her term expires in a year.

According to court papers, she committed theft by taking money from the trust account of a resident at one of the John F. Murphy group homes in Mechanic Falls where she served as an administrator. She also diverted money to herself from the John F. Murphy Homes commercial credit card, the indictment says.

She stole from one or both during a period from April 12, 2007, to Nov. 15, 2008, one week after she resigned from her job as administrator, the indictment says. She was hired in September 2003. The total amount she is accused of stealing is more than $10,000, court papers say.

The Arsenaults also were indicted on separate counts of theft in which they are accused of stealing more than $1,000 between June 25, 2007, and Aug. 25, 2008, in a scheme that reportedly billed John F. Murphy Homes for services performed by J&M Property Maintenance, though they knew services were not provided. Michael Arsenault reportedly is affiliated with J&M Property Maintenance.

The Maine attorney general’s office investigated the Arsenaults and is prosecuting the cases because John F. Murphy Homes receives MaineCare money.

Terri Arsenault’s attorney, Walter McKee, said Friday: “I have very little information at this point other than what the charge is. We’re investigating the allegations and we’ll go from there.”

Local attorney Leonard Sharon, who is representing Michael Arsenault, couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

School Committee Chairwoman Mary Ella Jones declined to comment on the recent charges. She said she didn’t believe they had anything to do with committee business and didn’t expect them to be discussed at a future meeting. RSU 16 Superintendent Michael Wilhelm echoed Jones’ comments, calling the indictment a “personal matter.”

Dave Griffiths, who served with Terri Arsenault on the Elm Street School Board in Mechanic Falls for several years, said Friday it was “a great honor to serve with her.” She was always “pro-student” and was a “natural leader,” he said. “She’s just been a wonderful elected official and a good and trusted friend.”

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