- Andrew Marra Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A former treasurer at Bak Middle School of the Arts pleaded guilty Thursday to falsifying records in a case stemming from an investigation into the disappearance of $66,000 from the school.
Cathleen Spring is expected to spend six months on house arrest and five years on probation under the plea deal, her attorney said. The misdemeanor conviction comes four months after her arrest on charges of forgery and official misconduct.
School District police had linked Spring to the disappearance of $66,000 from the school between 2012 and 2015, accusing her of removing the money bit by bit from more than 100 deposits placed in the school’s safe.
But when detectives moved to arrest her on grand theft charges, prosecutors rejected the case, saying last year the evidence against her was circumstantial. Spring resigned from the School District in 2015 during the investigation into the missing money.
The case was revived months later this summer after The Palm Beach Post revealed that prosecutors had discounted evidence that Spring admitted to forging the principal’s name on a $7,433 check and using a school credit card to buy two pairs of boots and to cover part of the cost of her son’s airfare.
Those revelations led to criticism of State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s handling of the case by teachers, residents and school officials. School Board member Frank Barbieri said in a public meeting in June that Aronberg’s office “ignored” evidence of multiple crimes by Spring. He suggested that the board should sue Spring in connection with the missing money.
In June, Spring was charged with official misconduct and forgery in connection with the allegations that she forged the Bak Middle principal’s signature on two checks in 2014 and 2015. Those charges, both third-degree felonies, were punishable by up to five years in prison.
Police had called Spring’s alleged forgeries “attempts to conceal” the disappearance of thousands of dollars from school coffers. But she was not charged in connection with the disappearance of the $66,000, which was never recovered.
As part of the plea deal, Spring also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct, but the court agreed to withhold adjudication, court records show.
The plea deal approved Thursday calls for a six-month jail sentence, but prosecutors said they would not object if she were given house arrest instead. In a statement, the State Attorney’s Office said that “if she qualifies for (the Sheriff’s Office’s) house arrest program, she can convert the jail to house arrest.”
As a condition of the plea deal, Spring is also barred from ever working for the School District again and must pay $600 in court costs.