Ex-Carbon clerk gets 1-3 years in state prison
William C. McGinley walks into the Carbon County courthouse Friday morning for his sentencing. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
A former Carbon County clerk of courts, who admitted stealing funds from his office, was sentenced to a state prison term on Friday by a visiting senior judge.
William C. McGinley, 61, of Jim Thorpe, was sentenced by Judge John L. Braxton to serve one to three years in a state correctional institution on a felony charge of theft — failure to make required distribution of funds.
McGinley also must pay fines totaling $25,000 imposed by Braxton on misdemeanor counts of tampering with evidence, obstruction in the administration of law and theft.
He previously pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for counts of receiving stolen property and restricted activities — conflict of interest being dropped.
McGinley was charged by the state Attorney General office with taking $44,000 from accounts of the clerks, specifically from fingerprint/booking fees.
The defense and the prosecution presented two views of the longtime clerk.
McGinley read a written statement to the court.
He told Braxton, “I take full responsibility for my actions. I had a gambling addiction.”
He added, “I’ve hurt my family, friends, all court employees on down.”
McGinley said he has addressed his gambling problem and is working to do better.
McGinley also spoke of his years as a PIAA basketball official and his successes in that field.
His attorney, Angelo T. Amonti, told the court, “He fell short. He knows that he did.”
Amonti said McGinley has been out in the public speaking freely of what he did and telling others what can happen to them when they break the law.
He said when confronted, McGinley admitted what he had done. He said he went to the Attorney General’s office in Allentown to be interviewed. He said his client has no other kind of criminal record.
Amonti asked Braxton to place McGinley on house arrest, because he feared what would happen to him in jail since he at one time dealt with many of the prisoners in the prison. He also asked, if a jail term was imposed, to make it at the short end of the sentencing guidelines and grant him work release.
The commonwealth painted a different picture of McGinley in the statements made by deputy Attorney General Rebecca Ann Elo, who prosecuted the case, and Carbon Count Commissioners’ chairman, Wayne Nothstein.
Nothstein said McGinley, “violated the public trust and must be held accountable.”
He said when the commissioners first learned of possible problems in the clerk office in 2016, McGinley was approached by the board.
Nothstein said McGinley’s response was to tell them it was his office and they couldn’t tell them what to do. Nothstein also said the commissioners met with McGinley again concerning the mounting backlog in his office, and that nothing was done by the defendant.
Nothstein said the clerk’s office only got worse, with “files and files all over the place.” He said people hired for the office quit because of the horrible atmosphere in the office created by McGinley. He said office positions were left open, not filled by McGinley, one for over a year, while the work continued to pile up.
He said after McGinley left and a new clerk was appointed, Francine Heaney, the county had to pay overtime and extra employees had to help clean up the backlog. Nothstein said it cost the county $63,915.72 to date.
Elo said McGinley treated the office “like his personal petty cash fund to feed his gambling.”
She said even after he was told in 2016 the county had questions about the operation of his office, he ignored the warnings. She said after he suddenly decide to retire, one year into a new term, the money shortage showed up in audits.
She said, “He took the hard earned money of the people of Carbon County.”
She said the amount of money the commonwealth agreed to in its complaint that was taken was only the amount it could be proved, hinting that there may have been more.
She said a state prison term was warranted based on the evidence found and his position in a public office.
Braxton said he received many letters of support for McGinley from his extended family and friends.
He said, “I don’t think you are a bad person, but you made a mistake.”
He said it was time for the defendant to move on.
Braxton said the letters indicate that many believe McGinley also has an alcohol problem. He said the defendant has denied, stating he had addressed his issues.
The judge said it was time for McGinley to pay for what he did, complete his sentence, and start over telling people, “I paid my price.”
He said once McGinley does that he can return to his community and live his life.
According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Special Agent Jeffrey Wright, there were 169 instances between September 2013 and March 2018 when fingerprint/booking fees were collected at the Carbon County Correctional Facility and turned over to the county Clerk of Courts office.
However, the money, totaling $12,955, was never deposited in the bank or noted in the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts computer system. The Clerk of Courts office normally receives cash from the prison the next business day after a person is fingerprinted and/or booked following a criminal arrest, or when bail is paid with cash to the prison after business hours.
Wright said there were also 69 cases, from August 2014 to April 2018, where bail was posted in cash and turned over to the county Clerk of Courts office, but was never deposited or accounted for in the AOPC system. “As a result,” Wright wrote, “the associated court dockets for those cases were never updated to reflect those defendants ever posted bail and the money could not be refunded to them at the conclusion of their case.”
McGinley met with representatives from the Attorney General’s office on Dec. 3, 2018, and admitted he took money from the office during the time he was elected. He told agents he used the money to gamble on poker machines at casinos or Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse, located next to the courthouse.
Asked how much money he thought he took from the office, McGinley estimated around $20,000. When told it was near $45,000, McGinley said he was “surprised it was that much, but he was willing to pay it back.”
McGinley has paid back the $44,000, and also paid the county $7,500 to cover the costs of a forensic audit ordered by the commissioners.
McGinley served as clerk of courts for about 28 years, first elected in 1990. He retired on May 1, 2018, four months into a new term.
After McGinley pleaded guilty the county commissioners voted to terminate all payments to him from the county pension plan pursuant to the public employee pension forfeiture act.
In addition the county is attempting to recoup interest paid on the pension, which is estimated at over $70,000. Braxton ruled the $25,000 in fines he imposed would go to the county against the interest payments.
McGinley will begin his prison term on Monday, Dec. 2. He will first report to the county prison and later be transferred to a state correctional institution for processing and then placed in one of the state’s prisons to serve his term.
The three county judges and District Attorney Jean A. Engler recused themselves from the matter, because of a conflict with the clerk of court office. A presentence investigation report was prepared by the state rather than the county adult probation office, for the same conflict of interest reason.