Crappell is on Berwick agenda

By JEAN L. KAESS

The resignation of Berwick Councilwoman Penny T. Crappell will be officially accepted Thursday when the Berwick Town Council meets.

Also on the agenda is the appointment of “an individual to serve as a member of the council … the person appointed shall fill the position as a member of the Council of the Town of Berwick until a new council member has been elected.”

A special election will be called at this meeting, and, according to the agenda, none of these matters will be taken up in executive session. The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. in the council room of Berwick Town Hall.

Town Attorney Allen McElroy said Wednesday that it is too late to add the election to the November presidential primary and such an election cannot be held during the runoff election in December. Therefore, the first available date to hold an election for Crappell’s seat is April 6 with a runoff, if necessary, on May 4.

Crappell, 47, resigned from her post Wednesday.

“It is with much regret and sorrow that I now submit my resignation as councilmember of the Town of Berwick. I have some personal issues that need my immediate attention and I feel it is important that I apply my efforts to those issues,” the letter to the town states.

She was arrested on charges of theft and forgery Thursday. After turning herself in to the state police at the St. Mary Parish Jail, she posted bail of $25,000 and was released.

Louisiana State Police said that through the course of investigation, detectives were able to obtain evidence which indicated that Crappell used her position at Berwick Elementary School to steal funds from the St. Mary Parish School Board for personal gain.

The evidence also indicated Crappell forged the name of an employee at the school to negotiate some of the false transactions. In all, detectives discovered Crappell conducted 53 transactions for various dollar amounts totaling over $58,000.

Aguillard said the school system also will seek compensation for the $20,000 cost of audit fees in connection with the investigation.

The signatories on the school activity fund at the time of the misappropriation were then-Principal Steve Russo and Crappell. Current Principal Debbie Tompkins was added as a signatory in June, after Crappell left on medical leave in mid-May.

Crappell resigned from her position within the school system Wednesday. The fallout within the school system continues to spread.

Aguillard created a position at the Central Office Complex July 19 for Russo and promoted Tompkins to acting principal. Tompkins received the promotion permanently Thursday.

Russo was moved to Franklin Junior High School Aug. 15 where he works as a self-contained special education teacher.

Aguillard said the search for an assistant principal at BES begins today.

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