Shandaken employee charged with embezzling flood funds

An employee of the Shandaken highway department has been charged with embezzling over $20,000 from the town, some of it allegedly from FEMA funds meant for Irene flood relief.

On Wednesday, state police arrested 46-year-old Florence Sullivan of Chichester and charged her with third-degree grand larceny, first-degree falsifying business records, and first-degree scheme to defraud, all felonies.

According to a state police statement, Sullivan manipulated town payroll and financial records associated with both herself and other employees, including federal flood relief payment records. As a result, police said, Sullivan received over $20,000 in overpayments and benefits, while other town employees had money wrongfully withheld. 

The payroll fraud was discovered during an audit of the highway department by the state comptroller's office, police said. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a statement on Sullivan's arrest:

"By knowingly stealing federal storm relief funds, this individual decided that lining her own pockets was more important than helping her community recover from hurricane damage. It’s unfortunate that my office continues to uncover cases where public figures abuse their positions at the expense of taxpayers. Thankfully, the New York State Police worked closely with my office’s auditors and investigators to bring this former town employee to justice."

Sullivan was suspended in January without pay after concerns were raised by supervisor Rob Stanley and highway superintendent Eric Hofmeister. At the time, town officials said little about the decision to suspend her, and declined to give details -- or even Sullivan's name -- to the Daily Freeman.