SARANAC — Felony charges against Saranac Town Clerk Mary Bell, who is running for re-election, remained pending as of this week.

In April, the Redford woman was charged with five counts of first-degree falsifying business records, a felony; one count of fourth-degree corrupting the government, a felony; and official misconduct, a misdemeanor, following a joint investigation by the state Comptroller's Office, the Clinton County District Attorney's Office and the Clinton County Sheriff's Office.

Bell, who was 54 at the time of her arrest, was accused of failing to deposit more than $800 in cash payments to the town that she had collected as clerk between April and August 2017 following an audit conducted by the Comptroller's Office.

That office said the audit found Bell recorded cash collections totaling $1,203, but only deposited $392 and substituted funds left over in a dormant town clerk bank account.

Bell is running for re-election on the Republican line against Deborah Pellerin, who is on the Democratic line.

ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE

At a May 3 special meeting, the Saranac Town Council voted to place Bell on administrative leave, during which she would continue to receive her clerk's salary and be prohibited from entering the town hall, according to the meeting minutes.

The council also removed her husband, Leo, has deputy clerk.

Town of Saranac Supervisor Tim Napper said it was his understanding, per the town's attorneys, that the council had no other choice other than to place her on leave.

"She is elected and she hasn't been convicted. The financial impact on the town obviously is negative.

"It seems everybody who’s not involved in the case understands that you can’t have a person doing the job that has potentially this much going on."

PRESUMED INNOCENT

Bell is slated to reappear in Plattsburgh City Court at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.

Her attorney, Allan Cruikshank of Plattsburgh, did not return a request for comment Friday. He previously stated she was not guilty of the charges.

Napper said, in this country's system of justice, Bell is innocent until proven guilty.

He added that he had no further information on the case other than it seemed to be taking a long time to resolve.

"It certainly made our life here dealing with it at the town more difficult. Our wish would have been we’d have had closure on it some time ago."

If convicted of a felony, Bell would lose her job as clerk.

According to State Public Officers Law, one of the circumstances under which an office can become vacant is when the official is convicted "of a felony, or a crime involving a violation of his (or her) oath of office."

Email Cara Chapman:

cchapman@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman

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