Former Fate City Secretary convicted of theft

By J.J. Smith. Add a former City of Fate secretary to the list of public servants in Rockwall County who have now been convicted of theft.

Former Fate City Secretary Sandra Lobban was sentenced April 22 to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution of $7,165.58 by Rockwall District Judge Brett Hall after she pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of “theft of property between $1,500 and $20,000″ by a public servant.

According to a Rockwall County Sheriff’s Office report, the thefts occurred between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 27, 2008, when she retired.

Employed as the City secretary and bookkeeper since 1988, she now lives in Waco.

The Sheriff’s report states that an investigation began shortly after new Fate City Manager Vicki Mikel told a detective April 16, 2009, that she believed Lobban had made purchases for her own personal use using a City of Fate credit card at the Rockwall Walmart store.

Mikel, who had just started working for Fate in November, 2008, provided credit card receipts totaling $7,586.29 to the detective, which she said were made for all sorts of things including food, toys, and personal items. Some were duplicates.

“When I first saw the receipts, I thought there must have been a big Christmas or holiday party or something,” she said. “The purchases were quite obvious and easy to spot.”

Two days earlier, according to the report, the city’s accounting clerk at the time,  Stephanie Fouquette, had given Mikel the Walmart vendor file and pointed out the financial “irregularities” that did not appear to be purchases made for the city.

She also told detectives that, in June 2008, she had also found suspicious purchases which Lobban had made at Walmart. The items included cigarettes, drink mixes and moving supplies.

After she  showed evidence of the purchases to Interim City Manager Trent Petty, and after he confronted Lobban about the purchases, the former secretary said it was a mistake and then reimbursed the city for the amount of $219.65.

According to Mikel, if Lobban made additional illegal personal purchases before Jan. 1, 2007, then it was basically impossible to determine.

“Up until fiscal year 2007 when the financial records became computerized, everything was recorded with pencil and paper,” she said. “The records were such a mess that it was basically impossible to track earlier losses. We finally had to stop searching so we could move forward.”

The investigation took 10 months, which was one reason why the City of Fate audits were two years behind, Mikel explained. They couldn’t legally proceed with the audits until the Sheriff’s Office investigation was completed.

The City of Fate has exploded in growth from 497 persons in 2000 to 5,200 today. Before November, 2008, when Fate became a “Home Rule” city, the City’s audits were actually four years behind. It was a tumultuous time period when several different people served as Mayor, some for short time periods.

Current Mayor Bill Broderick said one reason he ran for Mayor was to ensure the audits were brought up to date.

Mikel said that when she was hired bringing them current so the City Council could approve them was one of the major responsibilities she was given.

She added that the 2007 audits have now been approved, 2008 should be approved in mid-June and 2009 will be approved in September, 2010, before the start of the new fiscal year – finally bringing all of the audits up-to-date.

Other Rockwall County public servants who have been been in recent trouble with the law for theft include former District Attorney Ray Sumrow, who was recently released from prison after serving 15 months of a 15-year jail sentence for the theft of $68,000.

Former County Treasurer Sheree Jones “borrowed” $2,000 for her personal use and then she was caught. Former City of Fate Secretary Eddie Sturgall – who succeeded Lobban – pleaded “No Contest” to charges of stealing public funds in 2009, after leaving Fate and going to work for Lowry Crossing in Collin Co.

So far, there is no evidence that Sturgall stole money from Fate, but the audits have not yet been completed.

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