She’s accused of stealing nearly $350,000 from the Cuyahoga Falls Library.
And it appears she did it one nickel or one dime at a time since at least 2007, authorities say.
Theresa Karm, 54, is accused of theft in office for stealing money from the library for such things as overdue books or printer costs paid by patrons. She was arrested Monday, about three months after she was fired as the library’s deputy fiscal officer and Falls police began their investigation.
Library officials have been reluctant to talk about the police investigation.
However, the system’s director said Wednesday that Karm was questioned internally at least once in the past about the steep drop-off in the amount of cash the library was collecting in late fees.
Karm did not return a message left on her cellphone Wednesday. An attorney could not be immediately identified. Her case is pending in Stow Municipal Court and a Summit County grand jury is expected to hear the case next month for consideration of a felony indictment.
Library Director Kevin Rosswurm on Wednesday said he could not go into detail about the financial questions Karm previously faced about the sharp drop in fee collection revenue documented in 2007 and 2008.
Rosswurm, however, said that during previous questioning Karm seemed to adequately explain the decreased revenue and was able to keep her job. He said it would not be appropriate to comment further on the criminal investigation while the case is pending.
“I think I’ve probably said too much,” Rosswurm said.
As deputy fiscal officer, Karm was the only worker responsible for collecting the library’s daily cash intake from late fees paid on books and other materials such as CDs and DVDs.
Fees range from 5 cents a day for a late book to 25 cents for a late DVD movie. The library circulates close to one million items a year and the nickels and quarters paid in late fees add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year.
For example, the library took in $36,778 in patron fines in 2005, according to records released by the library on Wednesday. By 2008, those totals were slashed in half, with the library collecting just $18,104 in late fees.
The revenue continued to slide in each of the proceeding years, dropping to a low of $11,257 in 2011, the records show. In 2012, fees jumped up to $17,719.
It is unclear what sparked renewed interest by the library in Karm’s accounting of the patron fees account. However, the issue came to a head on March 13 when Karm was dismissed. Her personnel file contained no references to her firing.
Since Karm’s departure, the library has instituted changes in how it collects and accounts for its daily cash revenue, Rosswurm said. The changes include having two workers count the money.
“I think it’s a pretty secure system we have in place now,” he said.
Karm was hired by the library in 1996 as the financial secretary at an annual salary of roughly $18,000. She previously worked as bookkeeper for the Downtown Akron Association and the Summit County Health District.
Karm, who is married and lives in Tallmadge, has one adult son. She is helping raise her 2-year-old grandson after her daughter, Allyson, 26, died of natural causes in March 2012.
Although her title changed over the years, Karm’s responsibilities did not. She was essentially in charge of handling the library’s day-to-day cash. She was earning $41,711 a year when she was fired.
Her personnel file contained only one job performance review, which took place three months after she was hired. Her supervisor called her a “quick learner and self-starter.”