LANARK – In the wake of accusations of fraud and citing veiled threats of “legal proceedings” if she did not quit, the town’s 20-year-old city clerk has submitted her resignation fewer than 5 months after being elected.
Sabrina Yoeckel signed the letter at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 29 at City Hall. Mayor Ken Viglietta, City Attorney Ed Mitchell, also a notary, and an unnamed Lanark police officer were present, according to an unsigned email sent to the media from the Lanark Police Department email account that afternoon.
By state law, if an elected official resigns in a municipality with fewer than 500,000 people, the resignation must be in writing, signed by the person resigning, and notarized.
Yoeckel said Thursday that she was told before the Aug. 1 City Council meeting that she was being investigated for fraud. She has hired an attorney, she said.
She declined to name her attorney, or who told her she was being investigated.
Concerns about Yoeckel’s job performance – that she was not checking the mail, making bank deposits or completing QuickBooks accounting training – were raised publicly at the Aug. 1 City Council meeting.
At the next meeting on Aug. 15, Yoeckel told council members that she was making deposits, gathering the mail and had completed her training.
“Everything had kind of calmed down,” Yoeckel said. Then her attorney called her on Aug. 28 and told her “they’re going to go ahead with certain proceedings,” she said.
“From what I can tell, they were going to try to do something legally involving me not having my job any more, or I could give them my resignation,” Yoeckel said. “I don’t think anyone was specifically pressuring me. It was all handled through outside channels. Nobody ever came to me and said, ‘We want you gone.’”
She said she doesn’t know who contacted her lawyer and said she was being forced out.
“Even if I did know, I don’t want to put any names out there to make anybody look bad. It wasn’t [Viglietta] pressuring me,” she said.
She found a resignation letter template online and signed it the next day, Yoeckel said.
“I don’t even know who her attorney is,” Viglietta said Thursday. “Ed Mitchell was dealing with [Carroll County State’s Attorney] Scott Brinkmeier in connection with alleged malfeasance and issues with her performance.”
Yoeckel ran unopposed for the clerk’s job in April, after Jackie Hawbecker, who held the position for 19 years, decided not to run. The city clerk position paid $11,000 a year. Yoeckel also was the town’s utility clerk, which paid $13,000 a year.
After Yoeckel was elected, $84,000 in unpaid water bills were found in a cabinet drawer; she and City Treasurer Carol Kruzek were trying to determine who owes what, if anything.
At the Aug. 1 meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Haley Grim raised concerns about Yoeckel’s job performance as utility clerk. Grim said it was brought to her attention that Yoeckel had not been making bank deposits on time, hadn’t been picking up mail, and hadn’t completed QuickBooks training.
“If I was in that position in any job, any of us, if we didn’t do our job, we would have been let go,” Grim said at the time.
“This is the come-to-Jesus moment,” Ward 2 Alderman Lara Tallman said. “If we have to give you a list, we have to give you a list. You are a young woman in a very important position in this town.”
Lance Leverton, the other Ward 1 alderman, said Yoeckel had been told many times that picking up the mail was among her duties. He also said he saw her watching Netflix in the office.
“For me, I have a real issue – that you made the statement that you made these deposits, but they weren’t actually deposited in the bank. It’s fraud,” Leverton said.
Because that accusation of fraud was made in an open meeting, “It has to be dealt with, ceasing immediately, or I’d have to bring in an outside agency,” Police Chief Matt Magill told Yoeckel at the meeting.
Two weeks later, Yoeckel told council members those issues had been dealt with.
She had completed training, was getting the mail and making deposits on time, even going so far as to check the drop box at least once a day and depositing those checks if she found them before 2 p.m., she said. Grim told her to keep it up.
In an interview Thursday, Yoeckel denied committing fraud, and said any misunderstanding over the deposits was “completely unintentional, and due to the ignorance of my job.”
Viglietta will appoint someone to serve the remainder of her term, which ends in April 2021.
The city may split the position into separate city clerk and utilities clerk posts, Viglietta said.
“The way our ordinance reads, the position can be the same person, but doesn’t have to be. The utilities part of it, if it’s not the same person, is appointed by the mayor, with the consent of the council.”