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Former Vermillion city clerk pleads guilty to felony theft

Former Vermillion city clerk Patricia Ward, 62, will serve one week in jail, pay restitution and be on probation for five years after pleading guilty to one felony count of theft by swindle in Dakota County District Court Monday. In July, Ward had been charged with stealing more than $2,100 from her employer, the City of Vermillion.

Judge Erica McDonald also ordered Ward to pay a fine of $300 and not to seek employment where she would have access to funds. A gambling assessment was also ordered.

The criminal complaint charged that Ward stole the funds to pay for personal expenses.

An investigation had begun in 2009. When confronted with information from city officials Ward admitted to taking the funds to pay for personal expenses, but claimed she always "had the intent to reimburse the city for the disbursements. The city terminated Ward from her position later that year.

As city clerk, Ward was authorized to pay bills and issue checks on behalf of the city. She was also in charge of the petty cash envelope which reimbursed city employees for minor purchases upon presentation of the receipts. The review indicated the funds had been misappropriated from July 2008 to June 2009.

Ward said her husband had been unemployed, that they had been experiencing financial difficulties and she had some personal issues going on, including being a compulsive gambler.