The former mayor of Springdale will spend up to 90 days in jail and has been ordered to repay more than $15,000 she stole from the town in Stevens County.
Elizabeth Calderwood, 43, pleaded guilty last month to six counts of theft and five counts of identity theft.
Calderwood used a town credit card to transfer cash to herself, made fraudulent withdrawals of cash from ATMs and used the card to pay personal cellphone bills, among other things, according to court records.
The finance committee of the town of fewer than 400 residents instigated the investigation after noticing irregularities at the end of 2019, according to court records.
Calderwood was elected mayor by a single vote in 2017. While Calderwood told The Spokesman-Review last June she was a “horrible record-keeper,” she took a different tone in court Monday.
“I want to apologize to the people who trusted me,” Calderwood said through tears in court. “I created this huge mess for everyone. … I will spend the rest of my life trying to make that right, whatever that looks like.”
Calderwood said her husband left her, which led her to have a nervous breakdown and fall into addiction.
When Stevens County Superior Court Judge Patrick A. Monasmith asked what her addiction had to do with committing the crimes, Calderwood said, “perpetual bad choices.”
“I feel like it cascaded into this huge unfixable ball of wrong, and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Calderwood said. “Part of me is glad that everything came to a head because I didn’t know how to stop all of this anymore.”
Over the past year since she was charged, Calderwood said she has made major life changes and is more than 400 days sober. Her attorney, Stephen Graham, asked the court to consider sentencing her to electronic home monitoring, in part because of her anxiety disorder. Graham also said Calderwood has suffered significant effects of her crimes being so public, citing a Spokesman-Review story.
“She has felt the sting of public shame on this,” Graham said.
He also noted this was Calderwood’s first offense and called her crimes “stupid and impulsive.”
“This had zero sophistication ,” Graham said. “This is the type of thing the state auditor’s office will catch every time.”
Calderwood also begged the judge for home monitoring rather than jail noting she has custody of her child, plans to help take care of her mother while she receives treatment for lymphoma and continue her addiction treatment.
“I’m begging for some grace,” Calderwood said. “Just let me spend this sentence at home.”
Prosecutor Erika George asked the judge to sentence Calderwood to 90 days in jail noting this was already a significant reduction in her sentence due to a first-offender waiver.
While this may be Calderwood’s first offense, it’s not the first time she has been investigated for theft.
A Spokane police report from 2018 indicates Calderwood’s former employer, Embassy Management, a disability services company, alleged she purchased nearly 550 cellphones with company money.
Calderwood told her boss that her husband, whom she had recently separated from, must have made the purchases, according to the police report. She also told her boss not to call the police because her husband was a member of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang.
The police report indicates that Embassy believed Calderwood had stolen at least $260,000; however police administratively suspended the case after little progress was made.
A second police report was also filed in 2018 related to identity theft from the same company, but no arrests were made.
Calderwood was granted a first offense waiver but Monasmith said home monitoring was not a severe enough punishment.
“It seems to me when you’re elected mayor of a town, that virtually anybody would know that town money is town money,” he said. “You let down an entire town and that’s a big burden to bare.”
The judge noted that Calderwood took a significant amount of money from Springdale, a town that is usually “strapped” financially.
He sentenced Calderwood to 90 days in jail but noted she could get out early with good behavior.
“That is the minimum that should be imposed for this violation of law,” Monasmith said.
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