Embezzlement charges filed against county public guardians
ARENAC COUNTY — The Michigan State Police’s investigation into the Arenac County Public Guardian Office, which began in June, has led to three arrests.
A statement from the Ogemaw County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office issued Dec. 9 said over $300,000 worth of misappropriated funds from approximately 50 clients, during the years 1999 to 2009, was uncovered by the MSP investigation.
According to Detective Sergeant David Rivard, of the West Branch State Police Post, public guardian Robert Romps was arrested by the Michigan State Police on Dec. 8, along with Sherilyn Jones, the public guardian Romps replaced who was fired in August while her office was under investigation for criminal activity by the Michigan State Police and being audited by the Michigan Treasury Department. Jones’ mother, Sally Lebeau, was also arrested.
Charges against Jones include one count of criminal enterprise; two counts of embezzlement by a public official; one count of embezzlement from vulnerable adults; and one count of conspiring to embezzle over $200 but less than $1,000. If convicted, the penalty could be a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $100,000.
Romps faces one count of embezzlement by a public official over $50, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or $5,000.
Lebeau was charged with conspiring to embezzle over $200 but less than $1,000. She could face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $2,000 or three times the amount embezzled (greater amount), if convicted.
Lebeau is scheduled to appear in the 81st District Court on Dec. 16. She was given a personal recognizance bond in the amount $7,5000. Jones’ bond was set at $25,000 cash or 10 percent surety. She’s scheduled for a status conference on Dec. 14 and preliminary examination on Dec. 21. Romps, who was given a personal recognizance bond in the amount of $7,500, is scheduled to appear in court on the same dates and times as Jones. District Court Judge Allen Yenior has been assigned all three cases.
Romps fired Dec. 8, county moving away from guardian position
Arenac County Public Guardian Robert Romps started working as the county’s guardian on Sept. 3 and was terminated the evening of Dec. 8 during a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
After going into a closed session to discuss the personnel matter, the board opened the meeting once again to announce the firing of Romps.
In the meantime, the board offered Vickie Sheeder, of Omer, as a temporary guardian, but the board said it is no longer looking to keep an Arenac County Public Guardian on board for good.
“There isn’t a county around here that has this job,” said Board Chairman Raymond Daniels. “We don’t have a very good track record. Things have not been going well in our public guardian position.”
Board members said Sheeder would probably be employed as guardian until March, tentatively, and the board would then discontinue the position. Daniels said she had worked as a guardian before. She will be paid $15 per hour as a substitute employee, but receive no benefits other than conditions of employment (workman’s comp).