An administrative law judge for the state was cited this week to appear in court on charges of embezzling money from Montpelier’s farmers market, where she served as treasurer. Members of the Stowe Farmers Market say the woman used its funds for personal purchases and withheld cash she received in her capacity as president and treasurer of that market last year.
Ileen McGurran, who renders decisions in unemployment claims at the Vermont Department of Labor, is accused of embezzling an amount less than $1,500 from the Capital City Farmers Market, where her farm McGurran Bee Farm, was also a vendor.
McGurran, reached at the Department of Labor, said she had paid the money back in full.
“I’m declining to be interviewed until I talk to my attorney, because the money’s been paid back,” she said.
According to an email sent to members of the farmers market, “Ileen forged checks and embezzled money, not exceeding $1,500. She has attempted to repay us but is still in the process."
The email, which detailed the farmers market’s move to a new treasurer, also noted that McGurran is no longer a vendor at the market.
“This has been a mess and taken tremendous amounts of our time to get to the bottom of,” the email said. “The silver lining to it all is that we are a stronger board with a much better sense of how the bookkeeping works. We are working on creating better checks and balances to be sure this kind of thing can’t happen ever again.”
Sgt. Neil Martel of the Montpelier Police Department confirmed that the department has cited McGurran for embezzlement from the farmers market. Martel declined to say how much money was allegedly embezzled, because the case hasn't yet been heard in court.
In a media statement, the farmers market's board of directors said they've turned the case over to Montpelier police and replaced McGurran as treasurer. The board declined to make further comment.
Barbara Conn, the manager of the Stowe Farmers Market, said McGurran misappropriated money from that market when she served as its president.
“She did take some money from us,” Conn said. “We did get it reimbursed, but only when we found out it was missing.”
That happened on two separate occasions, Conn said.
“It was two separate incidences,” she said, “and I think the first one was like $1,300 and then the second one was like $350.”
Conn said that when the first missing funds were discovered, McGurran paid the amount back in full, but said a review of the market’s funds soon after revealed more missing money.
“She paid back the 13 [hundred] and we were going back through the records and found that she had kept $350 in cash that was supposed to be a deposit,” Conn said.
Carol Brandt was treasurer of the Stowe Farmers Market before McGurran took over at the end of the 2013 season. Brandt said she received an account statement of the market’s finances in the mail after she stepped down as treasurer. At that time, she said, McGurran was serving as interim treasurer.
“Something kept nagging at me, so when I opened it, I saw that there had been a check for $1300 or something,” Brandt said.
Brandt and Conn both said that McGurran stepped down when she was confronted about the missing funds and has paid back both the $1,300 and the $350 in full.
McGurran did not respond to request for comment about the Stowe allegations.
Steve Collier, an attorney for the state’s Human Resources department said he could not comment on any specific case, but indicated someone in McGurran’s position could be fired if found guilty of stealing.
“Theft is always concerning because it implicates someone’s honesty,” Collier said. “And if you are concerned about someone’s honesty, then it can be quite troubling to rely on them.”
The integrity of administrative law judges, he said, is especially important.
“Anybody who’s making judgments, who’s making determinations that impact someone’s ability to collect unemployment … I think obviously the integrity of someone who’s rendering the decisions is important. Absolutely,” Collier said.
The state was unaware of the allegations Thursday morning, but Collier said the state does reserve the right to put employees on paid leave if it deems the action necessary during an investigation. As of early Thursday afternoon, McGurran had not been placed on leave.
Updated 5:45 p.m. Jan. 24 to reflect comments from Brandt and Conn.