By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — The town’s former finance director was arrested Monday and charged with stealing $20,000 from the town.
Police say Janet Gallant, 52, of Pelham conducted suspicious payroll transactions while serving as the town’s finance director. The town hired an outside accounting firm and determined Gallant had made unauthorized payments to herself on several occasions from town accounts.
The town fired Gallant on Sept. 4.
“There has been an alleged breach of the public’s trust,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “I have taken steps to address that, and town will pursue any funds which have been misappropriated.”
Police Chief Stephen Savage could not offer much detail on the arrest.
“It’s still ongoing,” he said. “The town brought this to our attention. We recently got to a point where we found that charging her was the appropriate thing to do.”
Fitzgerald said the town noticed something was wrong in January.
“We recognized there were some challenges in our offices,” he said. “She was struggling.”
The town hired Coppola and Associates to investigate financial discrepancies. After Gallant was fired, the firm did a full audit of the town’s finances.
“As soon as we found out about it, we took immediate action,” Selectmen’s Chairman Robert Gray said. “This is extremely disappointing and it’s unfortunate that it happened. We are going forward to take steps to ensure that this type of thing doesn’t happen to the town.”
Fitzgerald said the town’s insurance covers the lost money.
“We haven’t recovered any of the funds yet,” he said. “This has to be addressed in court proceedings. We feel confident that the town will be protected.”
Neither Fitzgerald nor Gray could comment on how Gallant allegedly stole the money.
“This is an ongoing criminal matter,” Gray said. “There will be some sort of indictment handed down. As soon as that happens, I can speak freely.”
Gray said it’s particularly troubling that this happened with the finance department.
“The finance department covers almost everything,” he said. “When it happens, it smacks of bad things going on in town. But because they have happened, we’ve taken corrective action.”
Since Gallant was fired, Coppola and Associates has handled the town’s finances. Fitzgerald said he expects the firm to continue that for at least the next few months.
Gallant was charged with Class A felony theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. She was released on $50,000 personal recognizance.
Savage said it’s possible that additional charges could be coming against Gallant.