Former Tallmadge recreation director gets 2 years
By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008
He vowed to make it right.
Turning to face a packed public gallery, where Tallmadge officials, friends and family members were seated for his sentencing Wednesday, a sobbing Thomas J. Headrick apologized for his actions and said repeatedly he would ''make it right.''
Headrick, 30, a former altar boy and youth athletic leader who managed the city recreation center from its opening in March 2004 until he was fired in May for theft in office, was sentenced to two years in prison by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer.
As part of the sentence, following protracted negotiations that were completed just minutes before the hearing, Headrick also was ordered to repay $120,000.
Afterward, Tallmadge police Lt. Ron Williams, one of the investigators in the case, said it might never be known how much Headrick stole.
''No one in the city believes [the restitution figure] is the total amount,'' Williams said.
Williams declined further comment.
City officials and county law-enforcement officers were able to document more than 70 incidents of theft from late in 2004 to January of this year, according to court records.
The incidents, many from youth athletic tournament fees deposited directly into Headrick's personal accounts, totaled at least $162,000, the records stated.
City Law Director Penny Taylor said suspicions about Headrick's activities arose late in 2004, when he solicited a snow-plowing contract for his brother. The investigation burgeoned from there.
Defense lawyer Peter T. Cahoon, who told the court that Headrick was a lifelong Tallmadge resident, altar boy, high school sports star and devoted family man with two young children, said he already has arranged to pay back about $97,000.
The money will come from $47,000 in retirement funds from his city job and a $50,000 check made out to the city, Cahoon said.
Pleading for probation and the chance to remain with his family, Headrick concluded his emotional
statement — breaking down at one point and stepping away from the courtroom microphone — by saying: ''I can make it right, I know that I can. And whatever it takes to make it right, I'll make it right.''
The judge gave him the chance — at least for the next several weeks — to do just that.
Headrick will be home with his family for the holidays. He will not begin serving his time, the judge said, until 10 a.m. Jan. 6, when he must surrender to local authorities.
Stormer, noting that Headrick had no criminal record, also told him that he will be eligible for release on shock probation after six months.
Taylor had asked the judge for a sentence of two to four years. According to Ohio sentencing guidelines, theft in office is a third-degree felony carrying a prison sentence of one to five years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Headrick, whose city salary was $55,224 a year, pleaded guilty to a single count of theft in office on July 28, about three months after being placed on paid leave as findings in the investigation mounted.
Authorities said initially that a complaint from a resident sparked the investigation. After the sentencing hearing, Taylor said she initiated the first complaint after learning about the snow-plowing contract.
She said it is against the law for a city official to solicit a contract for a business associate.
Late last year, around Christmas, Taylor said, Headrick also bought a 50-inch plasma television for personal use without paying sales tax.
''Those were a couple of ethical breaches that brought this to my attention and to the police department's attention, so we initiated an investigation from there,'' Taylor said.
Mary Ann Kovach, chief counsel for the county prosecutor's office, said Headrick's sentencing had to be delayed as authorities began uncovering additional incidents of stolen city checks.
Although Headrick has met with city officials to disclose information, Kovach said in court-filed records that Headrick ''has not been forthright about the extent of his involvement or the amounts involved.''
''Not until an area of theft is found by the city does he acknowledge involvement,'' the records state. ''Whether this is because he does not remember or know how often or how much he has helped himself to may never be known.''