NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Judge Dennis Nieves suspended the proposed jail sentence of a 68-year-old former government worker, throwing out a plea deal that had been reached between her and prosecutors in December.
The lighter sentence means that, if Brennan stays out of trouble, she will avoid jail time completely despite writing herself checks from public bank accounts more than a dozen times in the final three years of her career.
For 28 years, she was the “comptroller/treasurer” at the Middlesex County Utilities Authority. When she retired, her salary was $151,040.
Brennan was only charged with one count of theft, and was given additional time to post $10,000 bail, as we reported previously.
Brennan’s sentence is much lighter than at least one similar case prosecuted in Middlesex County where a lower-level public official was sentenced to jail for stealing less money.
In 2013, Patricia Ruggeri was sentenced to 364 days in county jail and forced to repay $26,191 in student fees that she had stolen while serving as the Vice Principal of the New Brunswick Adult High School, as we reported.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey expressed disappointment with the Judge’s ruling in the Brennan case, which has dragged on for months following the retirement of Judge Bradley Ferencz earlier this year.
“His honor’s decision is, in essence, straight probation, which is a slap in the face of the public trust,” Carey said.
Carey’s office had been seeking a sentence of 364 days in jail, the maximum sentence that can be served in county jail rather than state prison.
“The 364-day sentence would have been just and fair… We will continue to investigate and prosecute corruption with all our available tools.’’
Instead, the Freehold resident has been placed on probation for five years, will be required to undergo counseling for her gambling addiction, and is permanently barred from holding a public job in New Jersey.
Judge Nieves also gave the convicted theif 45 days to repay $57,146.79 she stole from the Middlesex County Utilities Authority.
According to a press release from Carey’s office, Brennan “was told that she also will be required to pay for the auditing that was undertaken to determine the amount of the thefts.”
“The bill for auditing the account totaled $68,761.75,” reads the release.
A judge will decide the amount of the payment at a later date that has not yet been scheduled.
Brennan resigned from her utilities authority job on July 1, shortly after a bank shared information with prosecutors regarding Brennan writing herself checks from the agency accounts.
She was charged in September 2014 after an investigation conducted by Detective Linda Infusino of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined the defendant took the funds in various amounts between November 20, 2012 and June 16, 2014.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.