By Dave Pearce
A Mount Vernon woman pled guilty to two counts of Class D felony theft and two counts of Class C felony forgery in Posey County Superior Court this week.
Sally A Denning, 48, of Mount Vernon, turned herself in at the Posey County Sheriff’s office in August of 2011 following an investigation that was the result of audits of books from the Mount Vernon River Days Association.
“She pled ‘open’ and that’s one thing that is important to me in this whole thing,” Posey County Prosecutor Travis Clowers said. “We did not come to an agreement with her. Any offers that were made to her in the way of plea negotiations were not accepted.”
Clowers said she plead open to all the charges against her. He said that as of the sentencing hearing, no restitution had been made for the moneys that had been taken.
“Eight years was the maximum sentence she could have received,” Clowers said. “The judge sentenced her to four years in prison.”
Clowers said it is extremely important the people in positions such as the ones where Denning was serving need to realize that we cannot tolerate such acts as these.
“This is a small close-knit community and I believe the people who put her in those positions trusted her and every penny she took cut the fabric of that trust,” Clowers said. “This actually started back in 2006 and she committed this over and over until it reached the point that nearly $65,000 was missing. This was a conscious decision that she made over and over again. The message here is for people in those positions is that this is a very serious offense and that it will not be tolerated.”
Clowers said that prepared statements were read by River Days Representative Larry Williams and Chamber representative Michelle Hudson during the hearing.
In mid-April, the acting president, Larry Williams, of the 21st Century Leadership, Ltd., better known as the Mount Vernon River Days, noticed some questionable transactions involving Denning, who was serving as treasurer at the time.
Williams then contacted local Certified Public Accountant Ron Bennett requesting that he conduct an audit of the account.
Banking account documents were obtained and were forwarded to Bennett, who indicated after the audit that he found approximately $10,600 in questionable transactions within the account.
Williams disclosed the information to Kenneth Rose, an investigator with the Posey County Prosecutor’s office. Williams told Rose that the River Days Executive Board members consisting of himself, Becky Higgins, Judy Whitten, and Kay Kilgore met on May 25, 2011, and the group authorized Williams to file a police report regarding the audit.
Williams said back in mid-April, Denning was contacted via email and advised that an audit was going to be performed and she was asked to provide him with all banking records, cancelled checks, list of money donors, check stubs, deposit tickets, etc. Williams said Denning responded that she would provide the records the following weekend.
Williams told Rose that he did receive some records but not the required records for conducting an audit. He said he again contacted Denning on April 21 by email advising her that all the required documents had not been provided.
Williams told police that Denning responded by saying she provided him with all the documentation that she had. In the same email, she also advised him that she was stepping down as treasurer of River Days, citing she no longer had the time available to fill the position.
In turn, Rose conducted several interviews over the next three months with individuals who had donated money to River Days as well as individuals involved with the Southwestern Indiana Chamber of Commerce, where Denning had previously served as executive vice president.
During one of the interviews, Denning told Rose that she was to have received $1,000 a year from the Chamber as a retirement benefit. Denning told Rose that she admitted to falsely filling out additional bogus Chamber checks for $1,000 each, cashing them and keeping the money for herself.
She then agreed to meet Rose again the next day to give handwriting examples.
When Denning got to the office on August 11, to voluntarily give the handwriting samples, she told Rose that would not be necessary and that she had something to tell him.
She proceeded to tell him that she had forged a signature on the retirement checks and had deposited those checks into her personal account. She continued by telling Rose that there were some other Chamber checks that were actually bogus pay checks made out by her and she kept the money once she cashed those checks.
Other irregularities including other checks and several ATM transactions are still under investigation but on August 15, 2011, witnesses Rose, George Morgan, Williams and Bennett were on hand and Posey County Prosecutor Travis Clowers signed the affidavit for probable cause for arrest.
Denning was to report to the Posey County Jail on Sunday at 1 p.m. to begin serving the sentence. It will be determined by the Indiana Department of Corrections as to where the sentence will be served.
Denning was represented by attorney Jake Warrum.