The former treasurer of a parent teacher organization pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing money from the Cumming Elementary School group.
Jamie Garfield, 37, was ordered to repay what she had taken, which is believed to total nearly $33,000 between April 2008 and 2010.
As part of her negotiated plea, Garfield must also spend 15 years on probation for the three counts of theft by taking, pay a fine of $2,000 and perform 120 hours of community service.
She began repaying the funds following the plea hearing in the Forsyth County Superior Court by presenting a $10,000 cashier’s check to school principal Pam Pajerski.
Garfield tearfully apologized in front of Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley, stating that “she made a mistake.”
“I’ve never done anything like this. I don’t know why I did,” she said. “I always tell my children to make good choices, and I failed to.”
She said she had been writing checks from the PTO for personal purchases.
The checks also required the signature of the organization’s president, who had been signing blank checks for Garfield to make purchases he believed were for the school.
Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge said the PTO president at the time had a child battling cancer and had trusted Garfield with the finances.
Partridge disagreed that Garfield had made a mistake, holding up a box filled with information about financial transactions.
“To say it’s a mistake is a one-time thing,” she said. “This is years of deciding to steal.”
According to Partridge, the final theft is believed to have come from the $6,200 raised for playground equipment, which was never purchased.
Garfield was charged in July 2011 as a result of an investigation by the Cumming Police Department.
The organization’s board members reported the thefts to authorities after discovering one of its accounts was overdrawn.
Partridge said the state agreed not to seek prison time for the crimes because the school and the PTO did not want Garfield incarcerated “for the sake of her children.”