MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Deborah Kay Sims, a former employee for the Madison County Commission, pleaded guilty to theft and ethics charges on Thursday.
Sims was arrested in March after turning herself in to authorities. An investigation began after District 3 Commissioner Eddie Sisk said taxpayer funds that should have gone into road repair and other work went instead into a fish-and-rodeo fund, then later turned up missing.
She arrived at the courthouse with a smile on her face Thursday morning, but that changed when she sat in the courtroom. She was emotional as she pleaded guilty to the charges.
"We all make mistakes, and Ms. Sims is a good person," said her attorney Thursday. "It's unfortunate what happened, but she's made a lot of progress in getting this matter rectified for everyone involved."
Commissioner Sisk said the matter will be rectified when the money is returned to taxpayers. She is to pay a total of $154,673 in restitution.
"The system works," said Sisk. "When we found it, we turned it over, and this is what we hoped for."
"This defendant abused her public trust to steal more than $150,000 from a public fund, and I am pleased that we are recovering the stolen funds for the citizens of Madison County," said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange in a statement Thursday. "Today's conviction should send a message to all public employees that they will be held to account if they steal taxpayers' money."
Sims could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for June 20.
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