MORRIS – Former Grundy County Health Department bookkeeper Renae Chronister pleaded not guilty last week to theft and official misconduct charges that allege she stole taxpayer money.
According to the bill of indictment, Chronister is charged with stealing $47,041 in health department money over a two-year period from Jan. 1, 2010, to May 21, 2012. According to a news release sent Thursday from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, it was $44,000 from 2009 to 2012.
An investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, based on a referral from the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office, claims to have found a pattern of repeated cash deposits into Chronister’s bank accounts.
“The defendant abused her position and access to public funds to fund shopping sprees and take trips to the salon at the expense of Grundy County taxpayers,” Madigan said in the news release.
The Attorney General’s Office alleges that Chronister pocketed cash paid by area residents and businesses for services like immunizations, mental health counseling and public health inspections.
The money was allegedly spent on personal purchases, including dining out daily at restaurants, multiple shopping trips for clothing, and numerous hair and nail salon visits.
She was indicted May 7 on two counts – theft, a Class 1 felony, and official misconduct, a Class 3 felony. During her court appearace Thursday, she also made a demand for a jury trial.
Chronister immediately turned herself in to Grundy County sheriff’s deputies on May 7 and posted $5,000 cash, which was 10 percent of her $50,000 bond.
“I don’t think my client stole a penny,” Chronister’s attorney Randy Gordon said in May. “That’s why we’re pleading not guilty.”
Gordon said Friday he was not at Thursday’s court hearing and therefore could not comment further. Attorney Gary Dobbs also is representing Chronister, but did not immediately return calls.
The original investigation was prompted by audit findings that showed discrepancies between the health department and treasurer’s office.
Specifically, the audit showed cash being recorded within the health department, but not being deposited with the Grundy County Treasurer’s Office.
Chronister was terminated from the health department in February 2013 under a cloud of suspicion, and she threatened to sue the county and the Grundy County Board of Health at the time of her termination, according to a previous Morris Daily Herald article.
Judge Robert Marsaglia set Chronister’s next court date for 1:30 p.m. June 20 at the Grundy County Courthouse for a motion hearing and arraignment.