FORT SMITH, Ark. — Gore Treasurer Tana Carter entered a guilty plea in Sequoyah County District Court to embezzlement charges but she also formally denied she's guilty of the offenses.
Carter was accused of 17 counts of embezzlement totaling almost $60,000 — cash deposits made to the town's Water Department over the 17-month period from July 2009 to November 2010, according to the plea agreement.
In the Alford plea entered April 12 before District Judge Jeff Payton, Carter admits no guilt and received a five-year deferred sentence on each of the 17 counts; the deferred sentences will run concurrently.
Carter is ordered to pay court costs and to undergo supervision by the District Attorney's Office for two years. She is also ordered to resign her elected position as Gore treasurer within 10 days of her plea.
Earlier this year, three men who were appealing their convictions for the murders of three Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Ark., entered Alford pleas and were released from prison. An Alford plea is rarely used but has applications in certain circumstances.
Carter, 37, has until Sunday to resign, but Gore Town Administrator Horace Lindley said she had not done so as of Thursday.
Lindley told a local newspaper that once the seat is vacant, the Gore Board of Trustees will appoint someone to fill it until an election can be held — probably during the November general election.
Although her resignation was a stipulation within the plea agreement, in Oklahoma if someone is convicted of a felony, that person cannot hold office, Lindley said.
And although the plea agreement specifies no restitution, the town is bonded for its receipts and will be reimbursed by the bonding company, Lindley said. What typically happens is the bonding company will then file suit against the defendant to recoup its money, he said.
“The town wouldn't have agreed to the plea if that weren't the case,” Lindley said, noting that the court could have proceeded even if the town officials expressed disapproval.
From the town's perspective, it's good to have the case resolved, Lindley said.
According to Payton's court order deferring imposition of judgment and sentence, if Carter successfully completes the five-year deferral term, her case will be discharged without a court judgment of guilt, the Alford plea will be expunged from her record, and the charges will be dismissed.
At the time accounting firm Przybysz and Associates discovered the cash receipts missing during an independent audit of the Water Department's financial records, Carter was also a city employee. The town trustees fired her from her city accounting duties in February 2011.
Carter began working as Gore's payroll clerk in 2005, then was appointed to the treasurer position. She was elected treasurer in 2007.