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 Former CAB Employee’s Trial Looms

April 8, 2009 - The wheels of justice continue to turn slow for the Henry County Prosecutor’s criminal case against a former business manager of the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation.

Last Thursday, the trial date for Amanda Zurwell, who faces four felony counts of theft and two felony counts of forgery in connection with her brief employment with CAB in late 2006 and early 2007, was continued yet again. This marks the eighth continuance that has been granted since charges were first filed two years ago, in April 2007, and her first trial date was set for September of that year.

The latest continuance is the result of Zurwell hiring a new attorney. Her previous attorney, Scott Sirk of Greenfield, was allowed to withdraw from the case in early February after he filed a motion citing a “breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.”

Two days before Sirk filed his motion, Zurwell had submitted a letter to the court, advising Henry Superior Court 1 Judge Michael Peyton that she had terminated Sirk. In her letter, Zurwell outlined three major areas of concern regarding Sirk’s representation.

First, Zurwell said Sirk had made her responsible for locating an independent auditor to review financial records related to her case. While she did find and contact someone, she said Sirk failed to follow up, and, instead, had decided to call her husband, Tony Zurwell, a business manager for Greenfield Central Community School Corporation, to testify as an expert witness on the financial aspects of the case.

Zurwell’s second complaint regarding Sirk dealt with his alleged failure to obtain “necessary documents and information” from CAB that are necessary for her defense. She also said Sirk had failed to contact witnesses “who could provide factual information germane” to her case.

Finally, Zurwell said there had been “an irretrievable communication breakdown” between her and Sirk. She said Sirk was encouraging her to plead guilty even though she maintains her innocence, and that Sirk had made comments to local newspapers without her “input or permission.” She also took issue with Sirk’s failure to try to get her case moved due to pretrial publicity in the form of newspaper coverage.

The Banner contacted Sirk to ask him about Zurwell’s allegations. He declined to comment.

Zurwell’s new attorney is Stephanie Doran of Kokomo. At a pretrial conference last week, Doran requested a continuance to allow her time to locate and retain an expert witness to independently audit financial records. She said the continuance was needed to “adequately prepare for trial” and Henry County Deputy Prosecutor Joe Bergacs did not object to the request for more time.

Zurwell’s criminal case is now set for trial on June 9 at 8:30 a.m. A final pretrial conference is scheduled for May 14.

The criminal charges against Zurwell, two Class C felony forgery counts and four counts of Class D felony theft, stem from her employment at CAB between September 2006 and mid-January 2007. She is alleged to have forged two CAB checks payable to herself – one for $2,297.19 that was cashed and one for $2,651.50 that was discovered and voided before it was cashed – and with overpaying herself about $2,300 after taking over payroll duties.

The two forgery counts each carry a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and fines of $10,000. The maximum sentence for each theft count is three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Zurwell pleaded guilty to one count of theft in a Brown County Court last April with respect to a $3,132 check stolen in July 2006 from her employer at the time, Brown County School Corporation. Last June, she was sentenced to 180 days of home detention, one year of probation and 80 hours of community service for that offense.

Zurwell also filed a small claims case against CAB last April in Henry Superior Court 2. She claims CAB owes her $1,587.03 for “contract salary underpayment, unpaid cell phone stipend, and taxes erroneously held,” and she is seeking $86 in court costs.

CAB responded to Zurwell’s small claims case by filing a counterclaim against her for $7,281, citing the results of a special State Board of Accounts Audit that was completed after she resigned as the school corporation’s business manager. That case, by the agreement of both parties, has been continued indefinitely without a trial date being set.

 

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