Former office manager finally charged in theft

SANDPOINT — The former office manager of the University of Idaho Extension Office has been charged with grand theft for allegedly embezzling public funds.

The felony charge against Kristan Char Peacock was filed in the magistrate division of 1st District Court on Nov. 2, nearly 10 months after the embezzlement allegations surfaced.

Peacock, a 42-year-old from Laclede is scheduled to make an initial appearance on the charge on Dec. 3. A preliminary hearing to determine if a district court trial is justified is set for Dec. 15.

She is free on her own recognizance while the case is pending. Peacock’s defense counsel, Sandpoint attorney Bryce Powell, had no immediate comment on the case.

Although Peacock managed the university’s extension office, her $34,900 annual salary was paid by Bonner County. She was hired by the county in 2000 and her employment ended on Dec. 30, 2009.

A Sandpoint Police investigation commenced shortly thereafter.

The criminal complaint in the case alleges Peacock embezzled $35,395 from the county and/or the extension office between 2004 and December of last year.

The extension office’s chairman and educator noticed irregularities in the office checking account and brought them to the attention of Bonner County Treasurer Cheryl Piehl, who began checking banking records against extension office records.

Piehl determined that Peacock had been writing checks to herself and checks to pay off unauthorized lines of consumer credit, according to a Sandpoint Police report. Piehl, the report said, confronted Peacock and she allegedly admitted writing the checks.

Peacock allegedly forged a fellow employee’s signature to co-sign checks, the police report said. There was also at least one instance where correction fluid was used to disguise the fact that Peacock made a check out to herself, although it was unclear in the report if other records were similarly doctored.

The report indicated that Peacock had written $19,500 in checks to herself. Another $13,800 went to the unauthorized lines of credit and bank overdraft fees amounted to nearly $4,000, the report said.

The total amount of misappropriated funding tops $37,000 in the police report. The discrepancy between that sum and the sum listed in the complaint is unexplained in court records.

Peacock declined to be interviewed by a detective, although her former co-workers were called in for questioning and submitted handwriting samples, court documents indicate.

Some employees admitted co-signing checks, but said they believed they were for legitimate expenses, according to the report. One employee whose signature was used flatly denied ever co-signing checks made out to Peacock.

None of Peacock’s former colleagues are accused of wrongdoing in the case, which has been an open secret in Bonner County for at least six months. The state had attempted to resolve the matter through “pre-charging” negotiations, but those efforts did not pan out.

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