County Clerk Denies Stealing Postage, Labor
BLOOMINGTON - Charges that McLean County Clerk Peggy Ann Milton stole postage stamps and required a county employee to perform personal favors do not describe criminal acts and should be dismissed, according to her defense attorney.
Milton was charged in March with two counts of theft and two counts of official misconduct. She is accused of stealing labor by directing a county employee to transport her child to and from school during work hours. In addition, she was also charged with stealing postage stamps from the county office. Allegedly the county postage was used to solicit funds for the American Diabetes Association.
Defense attorney L. Lee Smith argued Thursday that Milton did not commit theft because the employee's labor is not the property of the county. There is no specific law against asking an employee to run an errand, he added.
He also said Milton did not use county postage stamps, but even if she did, she had the right to do so and the authority to control expenditures in her office.
Special Prosecutor David Rands said that, if the arguments by Milton's attorney are true, any employers in government or private business could make employees perform their personal tasks and could take any money they wanted for their own use.
Rands also said it's up to a jury to decide whether the County Board authorized use of county money for charitable reasons and whether the expense of the stamps falls under such an authorized use. Rands was asked to handle the case because of a potential conflict of interest by the McLean County state’s attorney’s office.
Smith said his client maintains she did not commit the actions claimed in the charges. Thursday's arguments were intended only to show the allegations weren't enough for criminal charges.
"I want to make it clear that she denies that she ever used the stamps as alleged or allowed anybody to use the stamps," Smith said, later adding, "We're not, at this stage, arguing the facts, but simply that the allegations here -- the facts that are alleged in the indictment are not sufficient to charge an offense under the law that's been interpreted by the courts."
Ford County Judge Stephen Pacey who was assigned to hear the case against the McLean County public official, read each of the four felony counts to Milton and told her the possible penalties of one to five years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
Judge Pacey will rule on the motion to dismiss sometime before an Aug. 1 hearing. Milton's trial is set for Aug. 15. Both sides agreed Thursday that a jury trial will take about three days.
Pacey asked defense attorney Smith if he explained the possible consequences of a plea or conviction on Milton’s public office. Smith said he had consulted with his client on the issue.
Milton is still serving as county clerk. If convicted of a felony, she would be forced to leave office.