JAMES V. FRANCO
The Troy Record
TROY, N.Y. -- A former Rensselaer County employee pleaded not guilty Tuesday after getting arrested for stealing approximately $75,000 from the Department of Health where she worked for some 10 years.
Brenda Kennedy, 30, a former medical billing clerk, allegedly pocketed cash collected for such things as rabies clinics, water testing and other DOH services rather than giving it to the Finance Department to deposit.
"She was given a trusted position and she violated it," said county Sheriff Jack Mahar.
Kennedy pleaded not guilty to felonies of grand larceny, defrauding the government, falsifying business records and the misdemeanor of official misconduct. She was arraigned Tuesday in North Greenbush Town Court by Judge Joshua Sabo and release on her own recognizance with a return date of July 17.
She pleaded not guilty but sources within county government say there is a signed confession. While requesting a public defender -- which Sabo granted provided she pay $250 toward the attorney fees -- she said she was unemployed. But it remains unclear if she was fired from her position, if she is in the union or if she was afforded protection under Civil Service Law. Kennedy left the courtroom without comment.
According to the indictment, she is alleged to have stolen the money from Jan. 15, 2010, through April 26. Sources say books are being audited from prior years. Mahar said the investigation is continuing and more charges could be forthcoming.
It’s unclear how long Kennedy worked with cash paid to the DOH, but sources say discrepancies in the amount of cash handed over for deposit were discovered when Kennedy was out of work and someone else was filling in for her.
County Executive Kathy Jimino asked Chief Financial Officer Michael Slawson to conduct an audit and review procedures in the Health Department.
Discrepancies were discovered and "the county executive immediately informed the county sheriff who initiated a criminal investigation," Slawson said in a statement. The county also notified the state Comptroller.
"Thus far the situation in the Health Department appears to be an isolated problem where established policies on handling cash receipts were not being followed by staff," Slawson said. Martin Reid, chairman of the Legislature, said legislators were just learning of the issue and had "obvious concerns."
"We want this matter immediately and thoroughly investigated, and after an investigation, if it is determined there was any wrongdoing, that steps be taken quickly to recover any and all money, in order to protect our taxpayers," Reid said.
The matter has been turned over to the District Attorney Rich McNally.