Former Westport clerk arrested for theft

WESTPORT - Former Westport town clerk Brenda McCooey has been arrested and charged for allegedly using her position to steal thousands of dollars from the town.

State Police arrested McCooey on Dec. 18, charging her with grand larceny in the fourth degree, a class E felony.

Having served as town clerk for Westport since 1998, McCooey resigned in June after an audit by the State Comptroller's office revealed she had taken more than $5,600 in town funds.

According to the audit, McCooey admitted to writing personal checks in order to temporarily substitute for cash she had collected for the town. It states McCooey diverted $2,000 more in this way before using the checks to repay.

The audit covered a 27-month period beginning in January 2006. It suggested McCooey may have diverted more money prior to that time.

The State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation unit has been delving further into the audit's findings after an initial report of the audit was released to the town this summer.

Upon arrest, McCooey was arraigned before Elizabethtown Town Justice William Garrison, and was released on her own recognizance.

Garrison continued the proceeding to Westport Town Court, but both judges there recused themselves, leaving Essex County Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Meyer to determine a date for the next hearing. No such date had yet been set at the time of this reporting.

If convicted, McCooey could face up to four years in prison.

Dan Connell, town supervisor for Westport, said the missing funds have been covered by insurance, but was advised by the town's legal counsel not to comment on the case.

Since McCooey's resignation, the town has taken steps to avoid further abuses of power. A resolution was passed forbidding town officials from writing checks in substitution for cash received, and Connell said the town will audit its clerk every February from now on.

Betty White had been appointed as interim town clerk. Sheila Borden was elected as Westport's next town clerk in November and will assume the post starting Jan. 1, 2009.

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