Officials in the small town of Weybridge say they had no idea their trusted town clerk and treasurer of more than 20 years has been stealing town funds for several years.
"We were surprised, we were disappointed of course and generally we felt bad for townspeople and for Karen," said selectboard member Steve Smith. Smith said Karen Brisson resigned last week and admitted to embezzling an estimated $150,000 from 2007 to 2011.
"It was taken in small bites and so we didn't feel the hit," Smith said.
Brisson didn't get caught, but she hired an attorney, came forward and then resigned. Her lawyer, Devin McLaughlin, said guilt finally got the better of her. "You get caught up in this sort of stuff and you want to stop and it just starts to build and build. And obviously she'd been a valuable employee for many years, knew everybody in Weybridge and it's just kind of killing her, you know, that this is happening and she's keeping it inside," he said.
Though the town won't know exactly how much Brisson embezzled until an independent audit is complete, her attorney said she's offering up the deed to her house to try to help the town recoup at least some of what she stole. "I can say it wasn't to lead any kind of extravagant lifestyle or do anything like that. She had debt and the debt starts taking over you and you start doing something that you shouldn't do," McLaughlin said.
Steve Smith admits there's never really been any oversight of the clerk or town treasurer in Weybridge, but he hopes that will change. He said the selectboard is reviewing new policies of oversight they hope to implement in the near future. "As an aggregate sum, it's a lot of money, but it was apparently done over such a long period of time and in smaller amounts, so we didn't notice," he said.
Though Brisson hasn't been charged yet, her attorney said he expects that will come once the investigation is turned over to the Vermont State Police.
Smith said the town will accept Brisson's concessions as repayment and any remaining losses should be covered by the town's insurance policy -- tax payers will not have to make up the difference.