Windham County Sherrif resigns

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(Host) Windham County Sheriff Sheila Prue has resigned.

The resignation was part of a plea agreement reached today in Brattleboro District Court.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Prue was scheduled to be arraigned on charges of embezzlement, petit larceny and neglect of duty.

In a deal struck before the court proceedings started, she pleaded guilty to all three and resigned her post.

In exchange, she received a five-year deferred sentence on the felony embezzlement charge and probation on two misdemeanors.

Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Maguire, who brought the charges, says the resolution makes sense.

(Maguire) “One of the biggest accomplishments is obviously her resignation and the fact that now the Windham County Sheriff’s office can move forward and have the cloud that it’s been under for the last ten months or so be lifted. In addition to that there is restitution that she must repay, she’ll have a permanent conviction and she’ll have to do some community service.”

(Keese) Prue’s deferred sentence means the felony will be removed in five years if she pays back some $36,000 in misspent funds. About $10,000 of that she’s already repaid.

District judge Katherine Hayes called it mind-boggling that the department had gotten so out of control during Prue’s tenure. But she said the remaining misdemeanor charges made it unlikely that Prue would ever work in law enforcement again.

Prue said afterward that she resigned to avoid further litigation. She and her lawyer both indicated that she could have had a strong defense.

(Prue) “Accepting responsibility means learning from your mistakes. It is not always appropriate to rely on the advice of peers. I learned that. Unlike other political figures I’m willing to admit that I’ve made mistakes and do something about it. Because it is better for the department, it is better for the county and mostly importantly spares the hardship of my personal family, my professional family of appearing for depositions, inquests and hearings.”

(Keese) Responding to a question, Prue’s attorney said she believed Prue was singled out because she was a Democrat, a woman and a lesbian. She said many of the irregularities uncovered in the recent investigation were commonly practiced by other, male sheriffs.

According to state law, Prue’s resignation leaves the county’s high bailiff in charge of the sheriff’s department. That office is held by Robert Backus, a Townshend physician.

Members of the Vermont Sheriff’s Association say they are still willing to step in and run the department until Prue’s term expires.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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