The former treasurer of the Hubbard First Responders took the witness stand Monday and admitted embezzling more than $37,000 from the squad over a two-year period.
Valerie Ione Kimball, 45, of Park Rapids, testified matter-of-factly that it was relatively easy to do and that she used the funds for personal gain.
"There were checks pre-signed that I wrote to myself," she admitted. In all, 18 checks were found during an audit begun last winter. Kimball admitted she did not have authorization to write herself the checks and used the money to pay personal debts.
Other times when there was no money in her personal bank account and her debit card was declined, she used the First Responders credit card, she said. The audit uncovered 70 such transactions for personal matters.
Monday Kimball pled guilty to embezzlement of public funds, but seemed a bit confused about the source of those funds.
The Hubbard First Responders collect funds through public donations, she said on the witness stand. She seemed unaware the group is primarily financed by a public health grant, which was the basis of the charge.
The felony count is punishable by a maximum of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine upon conviction.
In the plea deal, the county agreed to dismiss a second charge of felony theft and cap its sentencing recommendation at 90 days because Kimball has no criminal history.
Kimball agreed to make restitution of the funds.
She will be sentenced sometime later this fall.
Assistant Hubbard County Attorney Erika Randall told visiting judge Michael J. Kraker that she hopes the sentencing would be in front of a judge, not via an interactive TV network occasionally used when judges cannot travel to hearings.
She pointed out that many members of the First Responders have attended each court hearing and may want to give victim impact statements at sentencing. Monday at least a half dozen emergency medical technicians were in the courtroom audience.
They are volunteers. The public funds help them purchase equipment and supplies.
Randall did not want the impact of their testimony to be minimized in an ITV sentencing, she said.
Kimball testified that she was the group's treasurer from 2005 until December 2009, when a new treasurer was voted in. The thefts are alleged to have occurred from April 2007 until she left office. Shortly after that, some of the squad came forward to request the audit of missing funds.
No date was set for sentencing. Kimball has been free on bond since her arraignment.