Sunday, December 13, 2009


With no discussion Monday, November 10, 2009, the Belgrade, Montana School Board unanimously voted to fire District Clerk Susan Lang, who pleaded guilty last month to embezzling funds from a Bozeman sports club.
Trustee Bob Marx was the only board member to say anything during the five-minute meeting.
"I've been on the board for a lot of years and this is one of toughest things I've ever done," Marx said. "I've been thinking about it all week. It's just tough, it's very tough."
Lang pleaded guilty to stealing at least $10,000 from the Bozeman Hawks Wrestling Club during her tenure as club secretary from 2001 to 2009.
Trustees had copies of court records and, given the severity of the crime and Lang's position in the district, "the board was given little choice" but to fire her, Trustee Lance Voegele said.
"It's the public's trust," he said after the meeting.
Lang was given a hand-delivered letter from Superintendent Herb Benz on Nov. 3 that outlined her potential firing. In the letter, Benz said that Lang that, as business manager, held “a position of great trust and fiduciary responsibility.”
Lang was not at the meeting Monday, nor did she send a representative to speak on her behalf.
Her duties will be divided up by current staff in the district's administrative offices, Benz said. It could take up to two months to find a replacement, he said.
Lang has been clerk of the Belgrade School District since 2001, and was earning nearly $73,000 per year, Benz said. Before taking the Belgrade Schools position she was an accountant in the Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder's office.
Benz said last week it is unlikely that Lang stole from the school district.
"There are safeguards in place," he said. "The district goes through a thorough outside audit annually."
Taking money from the school is "not possible" given that several bookkeepers are actively involved in the district's finances, he said.
"We were never concerned about the district," he said. "You would have to have a collusion of employees."
According to court documents, an accountant for the Bozeman Hawks Wrestling Club estimated that Lang took $15,000 from the club. Lang admitted taking approximately $10,000. Later, the wrestling club board reported that approximately $20,000 had been taken
According to court records, Lang told the police that "she offered the board $10,000, but they refused to settle for that amount." She paid back $10,000 to the club in July, according to court records.
Lang will be sentenced in Gallatin District Court next month and faces up to 10 years in jail and possibly a $50,000 fine. The court also could sentence her to probation and could impose restitution.

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