Newaygo Library Board, Public Hear From Prosecutor On Embezzlement Charges
By Ken DeLaat
The Newaygo Area District Library Board heard from Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead who explained the charges against former employee Georgia Kohlbeck .
Ms. Kohlbeck was terminated by former Library Director Christina Golm just over a year ago for embezzlement, an action that unleashed a firestorm of criticism from community members who populated each board meeting since to...
...voice their concerns during public comment time. Ms. Golm left her position this past spring and two members of the board resigned during the first few months of the controversy.
After an 8 month investigation, Ms. Kohlbeck was charged with 3 counts of embezzlement involving three small items.
Mr. Springstead cited several issues that led to the original charge being filed and described how they arrived at the plea of one count of misdemeanor embezzlement recently accepted by Ms. Kohlbeck. Ms. Kohlbeck‘s sentencing was delayed a year as part of the agreement.
Mr. Springstead went over the process of investigation in the case citing many discrepancies in record keeping and a lack of accountability that made definitive findings difficult to obtain however he stated there were enough areas of concern to file the charges on the items they could confirm in the matter.
He advised the board to structure their policies and procedures in a more efficient manner that would provide needed accountability.
Board President Sharon Haege asked if Ms. Kohlbeck would receive a sentence after a year.
“No,” he replied. “Good people sometimes do unwise things and in Ms. Kohlbeck's case she is well liked, has community support, no criminal record and is known to many people. We try to fashion a punishment that fits and for her, once she successfully completes probation, the case will be dismissed.”
He fielded a couple more questions then expressed his hope that the library board would take this as a learning experience.
The board thanked Mr. Springstead for coming to the meeting and the information he shared.
The board then went on to other business including the review, discussion, and voting on new policies that have been recently developed.
During public comment several people took to the podium to admonish the board for what they felt were shortcomings in the way they approached the matter. Former employees and patrons who have been voicing their opinions regarding the matter since the turmoil began a year ago criticized the process the board followed and some expressed their desire to put this all behind and move forward without pursuing anything further.
One individual praised the board for continuing to persevere through this lengthy process.
The Library Board consists of Sharon Haege, President, David Chambers, Vice President, Marjorie Redder, Secretary, Elizabeth Pitzer, Treasurer, and Trustees Angela Chase, Deborah Cunningham and Kim Roehrig.