SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Criminal investigation agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested a 59-year-old Zavalla woman on a state-jail felony theft charge in connection to allegations that she stole $8,170.90 from the City of Joaquin and used it to buy gas, school supplies, toys, tires, and gift cards.
Donna Gale Fitzgerald, Joaquin's former city secretary, was arrested and charged with state-jail felony theft on Feb. 12.
According to a DPS press release, the arrest was the result of an ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers that was started in November 2015 at the request of the Shelby County District Attorney's Office.
While she was working for the City of Joaquin, she allegedly took $8,170.90 from the city for her own personal use during a period from June 1, 2013 to Dec. 23, 2014, according to the arrest affidavit. In the affidavit, Texas Ranger Charles Brazil said the mayor of Joaquin contacted him about the alleged theft after Fitzgerald retired and passed along information from an audit.
Fitzgerald allegedly used the city credit card to buy school supplies, toys, tires, and gift cards with the city credit card, stating in July 2013 and ending in December 2014. The purchases totaled $1,542.30.
According to the arrest affidavit, Fitzgerald also used the city credit card to make unauthorized gas purchases totaling $1,212.66. The alleged unauthorized gas purchases in Center, Timpson, Lufkin, and Nacogdoches between June 2013 and December 2014.
The audit also listed Fitzgerald's travel expenses. She received a total of $2,485 in travel reimbursements for a period between December 2013 and December 2014 even though there was no record of Fitzgerald traveling on city business during that period, the affidavit stated.
The audit also listed the payroll checks issued to Fitzgerald, and they showed that she received checks for contract labor in addition to her monthly payroll checks even though she didn't do any contract labor for the city between December 2013 and December 2014, the affidavit stated. In addition, no withholding was taken from these contract-labor checks.
The affidavit stated that Fitzgerald signed the checks, which totaled $2,930 with the last name Marshall.
'The mayor's signature was required above Fitzgerald's on the same line and appeared to be different on one of the checks, and unrecognizable initials were placed on a second check in the packet," the affidavit stated.
In the affidavit, Brazil said when he interviewed Fitzgerald on Jan. 7, at first, she tried to explain away some of the expenses on the audit report. Later, Fitzgerald allegedly told the Texas Ranger that because of financial problems, she needed the money to pay her bills. She told him that she lost her home because of her financial problems.
"Fitzgerald advised she knew it was wrong and had always intended to pay the money back," the affidavit stated. "Fitzgerald felt that some of the items noted in the document were legitimate expenses for city business."
"No additional arrests are expected as a result of the investigation," the press release stated. "This case has been sent to the Shelby County District Attorney's Office for review."
Fitzgerald was released from jail on Feb 12 on a bond of $4000. It is unknown at the time if more charges will be pressed.