Pleasant Valley New York Town Clerk Margaret Hart was charged for the theft of more than $27,000 which she allegedly stole by pocketing cash deposits instead of depositing them in the clerk’s bank account, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Hart, 57, of Hyde Park, was charged with grand larceny in the third degree and official misconduct. The thefts, which took place over three and half years, were uncovered by the State Comptroller’s office after a referral from town officials.
As clerk, Hart also functions as the town tax collector. She allegedly used her position to steal cash payments made to the town and manipulated town accounts to disguise her theft.
“Ms. Hart violated the public trust by stealing town fees and will be held accountable for her actions,” DiNapoli said. “My staff, working with law enforcement, exposed the money transfers that Ms. Hart allegedly used to mask her thefts. I thank the State Police and Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady for their continuing partnership to combat public corruption.”
Pleasant Valley town Supervisor Mark Figliozzi said in a statement that he was made aware of irregularities involving the transfer of funds between town accounts shortly after taking office in 2016. He said he alerted the town’s attorney and outside auditor and ordered an audit covering several years.
The audit revealed shortfalls in accounts, Figliozzi said. He put safeguards in place and said that, after several attempts by the town’s auditor to reconcile the shortfall, contacted DiNapoli’s office.
Hart was arraigned Monday afternoon in Poughkeepsie before acting Dutchess County Judge George Fufidio.
She appeared in County Court with her attorney, Thomas Melanson of Kingston, for her arraignment.
Hart stole funds collected by the Town Clerk’s Office from 2012-16, Grady said. The money had been collected for various fees paid by residents, including marriage licenses, hunting and fishing licenses and property taxes.
She was released without bail and is due back in court April 6.
According to See Through New York, Hart was paid $55,803 as town clerk and tax collector in 2017.
Hart was first elected to the four-year post of town clerk in 2011 and re-elected in 2015, according to published reports. Prior to her election as town clerk, she served for 14 years as deputy town clerk.