Former Fairmount Township Trustee Sheila M. Metzger will serve 180 days of home detention and will be required to pay more than $116,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to Level 6 felony charges of theft and official misconduct Monday in Superior Court 3.
Metzger, 57, of Fairmount, was initially charged with five counts of theft and five counts of official misconduct in October 2019, but eight charges were dropped as a condition of the plea agreement, according to court documents.
According to a July 3, 2019 State Board of Accounts audit, Metzger mishandled township funds, including more than $31,000 of township assistance benefits and special services which were paid directly to Metzger and/or her relatives. The audit found $3,750 was paid to Metzger’s salary in excess of her appropriated salary, and the audit states that $1,925 in checks and $1,207.26 in mileage reimbursement were paid to Metzger, all without proper documentation to validate the transactions.
The plea agreement stated Metzger’s sentence should be 912 days for each count with the number of days executed left up to Judge Warren Haas.
Grant County Prosecutor Rodney Faulk said Haas sentenced Metzger to 90 days of home detention for each count to be served consecutively, meaning one after the other, with the remaining 1,644 days of the sentence to be served on probation. The plea agreement states Metzger has one day of jail credit.
As part of the plea agreement, Faulk said Metzger will also be responsible to pay back $116,132.37 in restitution to the Fairmount Township Trustee’s office, the victim in the case, and/or the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, which filed a civil action against Metzger, and/or Auto Owners Insurance, which paid a partial restitution amount to the victim.
The total amount of restitution ordered is triple the amount of the $38,710.79 of pecuniary loss the township suffered due to Metzger’s actions, Faulk said.
“The law allows for what are called treble damages worth three times the actual amount that was suffered,” he said.
Faulk said he believed the sentence was appropriate given the circumstances of the case, including the fact that Metzger had no prior offenses.
“She walked away from the sentencing with a five-year sentence, felony convictions and an order to pay restitution plus the home detention,” he said. “And to me that seems like a just result.”
According to court records, Metzger was found eligible for electronic monitoring and home detention on March 10. The document states Metzger must personally contact Grant County Community Corrections’ Home Detention Office within two working days of sentencing, with a projected beginning date of detention set within 30 days of sentencing.
Additionally, the March 10 approval states Metzger will be required to pay a $100 enrollment fee and $250 down payment and establish telephone service at the home that will be verified by the Community Corrections office. A start date and deadline for down payment and verified telephone line will be given to Metzger now that she has been sentenced, the document states.
While her criminal case is now decided, Metzger still faces a civil lawsuit brought by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in Grant County Circuit Court that is seeking a total award of $116,132.37 plus court costs and attorneys’ fees from Metzger.
“The Office of the Attorney General takes seriously its duty to pursue recovery of the misappropriated or diverted taxpayer funds,” the Office of the Indiana Attorney General stated in an email to the Chronicle-Tribune. “We are actively reviewing the criminal matter and the impact it may have on the civil matter pending against Sheila Metzger.”
James Loftin, a member of the Fairmount Township Board, said he is glad the township can put the case in the past and focus on the future.
“I guess justice took its course,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the community moving ahead. I think that the closure for this case is going to be good for our community, and we have another trustee that’s in place who is doing a great job.”
Metzger’s attorney William Thomas Myers did not respond to the Chronicle-Tribune’s request for comment as of deadline Tuesday.