Justices remand for reconsideration in Munster misuse of public funds case

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A unanimous Indiana Supreme Court has remanded a case, reinstating state claims against two former Munster school officials accused of  misappropriation of funds. The court cited its recent decision concerning a case involving a Jennings County bookkeeper.

Former School Town of Munster superintendents William Pfister and Richard Sopko were sued by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in 2017 after a State Board of Accounts report revealed a total of $841,398.03 in allegedly misappropriated overpayments. The results of an audit for the time between July 1, 1999 and June 30, 2014 revealed $463,922.75 in alleged overpayments to Pfister during his time as superintendent and $377,475.28 to Sopko during his tenure as assistant superintendent and superintendent.

The funds in question included annuity payments, cash bonuses, investment allotments, salaries and stipends and community relations fringe benefits. The audit also found the superintendents were liable for $10,0532.32 in costs incurred by the State Board of Accounts.

However, the Lake Circuit Court ruled in favor of the former school officials, as did the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found the state waited too long to pursue its suit against the men. The AG’s office then filed a petition asking the high court to accept transfer of this civil lawsuit against Pfister and Sopko in State of Indiana v. William Pfister, et al., 20S-PL-246.

“This case is before the Court on Appellant’s petition to transfer jurisdiction filed pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rules 56(B) and 57. After this case was transmitted on transfer, this Court handed down its opinion in Robertson v. State ex rel. Hill,” on March 30, Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote in a Friday order.

The high court granted transfer in Pfister, vacating the Court of Appeals’ memorandum decision and remanding the appeal to the trial court to reconsider in light of Robertson.

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