Former Weybridge town clerk guilty of embezzling
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | March 26,2013
Just moments after pleading guilty to stealing money from the town of Weybridge, Karen Brisson apologized to two of her town officials.
Selectmen Steve Smith and Gale Hurd were in the audience in federal court in Rutland on Monday afternoon when Brisson, the longtime town clerk and treasurer, pleaded guilty to stealing around $400,000 from the town over a six-year period. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
Standing on the steps outside of the courthouse on West Street after the hearing, Smith and Hurd said they feel bad for Brisson and never imagined the town would be in the position it’s in.
“Sadness and disappointment,” Hurd said. “I know Karen herself feels terrible.”
In town, Smith said, the feeling has been an “overwhelming and prevailing sense of sadness” since news of Brisson’s betrayal was made public.
“She has apologized before,” Smith said adding she has not given a reason as to why. “Nor did we ask.”
Brisson, 50, served as town clerk and treasurer for the town of Weybridge for 27 years. According to court records, as clerk she was the authorized signer on the town’s checking accounts.
At the hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Waples said Brisson stole from the town primarily by issuing checks to herself without authorization and putting them into a personal account and using it. She started no later than 2006 and continued through November of last year, when she resigned.
He said the exact amount of money Brisson embezzled was not yet determined, but it was in the range of around $400,000.
“She took hundreds of thousands of dollars which were checks payable to Karen Brisson,” Waples said.
Brisson’s attorney, Devin McLaughlin, said his client cooperated with law enforcement during the investigation, meeting several times in his office.
Judge Christina Reiss released Brisson on conditions pending her sentencing, scheduled at 1 p.m. July 18 in Rutland.
Brisson faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines and full restitution for all stolen funds.
But under the terms of the a plea agreement signed by Brisson and federal prosecutors, she would be sentenced at the “low end of the sentencing guidelines” and she would receive credit for timely acceptance of responsibility. The terms of the deal also dictate that Brisson pay back $400,000 in restitution.
The town of Weybridge with a population of close to 900 people has a general fund budget of just under $100,000 and a highway budget around $300,000.
Hurd said the town has never done an external audit to the town’s books although they have considered doing it before.
They have money in the budget for training for the town’s auditors to tighten review of the financial books, she added.
Brisson’s home is for sale and she has signed the mortgage over to the town. Hurd said it has a $500,000 insurance plan through the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
At town meeting earlier this month, Scott Wales was elected town clerk and town treasurer.