LIMA — The former head of maintenance at Elida Local Schools who stole $85,000 from the school district is repaying his debt, but at a rate that is less than satisfactory to school officials and prosecutors.
An Allen County judge, however, on Thursday said it would “not be fair to try to squeeze blood from the proverbial turnip” by requiring Matthew Burton to pay more toward his restitution total than he can reasonably afford.
Burton was sentenced in August 2018 to 85 days in jail and four years on probation on a third-degree felony count of theft in office. He was also ordered to repay $85,000 to the school district.
Half that amount was recovered when the district took a lump sum payment of more than $40,000 from Burton’s retirement account. Over the past 10 months Burton has made six payments of $100 each to the school, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca King-Newman told Judge Jeffrey Reed during Thursday’s hearing. He still owes the school district nearly $40,000.
At that rate, the prosecutor told Reed, it will take Burton 33 years “to make the district whole again.” At the school district’s request, King-Newman asked the court to require Burton to make a larger monthly dent in his restitution obligation.
But Reed said an examination of the family’s monthly income shows Burton and his wife are paying monthly household bills that exceed their monthly income by roughly $400. Reed said an examination of the couple’s expenses shows they are “not living lavishly.”
The judge ordered Burton to continue making a minimum monthly payment of $100 to the school district.
According to the indictment returned against Burton by an Allen County grand jury, the theft in office charge stems from the allegation that Burton, “while being a public or party official, did commit the theft offense when the property or service involved is owned by the state … or any political subdivision, department or agency … and the value of the property or services stolen was $5,000 or more.”
The indictment alleged the offenses took place between October 2007 and May 2017. Burton resigned his position with the school on May 11, 2018.