Sarpy County’s former fleet manager was sentenced Monday to three months in jail and three years of probation for stealing fuel and tools from the county shop.
Patrick K. Clarke of Bellevue was led from Sarpy County District Court in handcuffs after Judge Max Kelch handed down the sentence.
“You had the privilege to use taxpayer money, and you abused that,” Kelch said.
Clarke was fired last fall after Sheriff’s Office investigators found he had used a county-issued card to fill up his personal car and had taken home shop tools.
He was facing a felony charge but accepted a plea deal that reduced the charges to theft and official misconduct, both misdemeanors. He also paid $7,900 in restitution.
Clarke’s lawyer, Michael Munch, said Clarke had been dealing with a lot of grief — a son’s suicide, a messy divorce.
“I’m just flummoxed how somebody of the caliber of this individual could get in the kind of trouble he did. ... He has ruined his career. He has ruined his standing in the community,” Munch said.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Tricia Freeman pushed for jail time, saying the longtime county employee — Clarke was hired in 1977 — simply felt entitled to public property.
“This is a huge violation of the public trust,” she said.
In response to Clarke’s thievery, the county ordered an audit that found a number of deficiencies in the department’s internal controls. The County Board has since approved new policies for buying parts and managing the county fuel supply.