Oak Park — A former deputy city clerk and her husband were charged Friday with embezzling more than $430,000 in city funds over a two-year period.
Stephanie Sumner is charged with two counts of embezzlement over $100,000 and a third count of over $20,000 but less than $50,000. The offenses carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison.
Her husband, Michael Sumner, is charged with five embezzlement offenses of lesser amounts. Each are felonies and carry up to five years in prison.
Both surrendered to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on Friday and had a video arraignment of charges from the county jail. They stood mute before Oak Park 45-B District Judge Michelle Friedman Appel, who entered not guilty pleas for both.
The sheriff’s special investigations unit has been pursuing the case and the falsifying of city expenditures since March, according to City Manager Erik Tungate, who declined to provide details. Tungate said the suspected embezzlement was kept quiet until earlier this month when the sheriff’s unit had completed its probe and sought charges.
It’s unclear how the Sumners, both 42-year-old residents of Waterford Township, were allegedly able to circumvent the city’s checks and balance system requiring city hall and council oversight of city expenditures. Oakland County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Cole would not elaborate on how the embezzlement was allegedly accomplished between January 2013 and March 2015. The embezzlement also apparently went undetected during a routine outside professional audit of city funds.
“We believe the Sumners were the only ones responsible for this (embezzlement),” Cole said.
Stephanie Sumner was a city clerk and director of elections and Michael Sumner worked part time under her supervision.
Tungate said once the embezzlement was discovered in March Stephanie Sumner was terminated from her job. She had worked at city hall since 2012.
All the money has been replaced through the city’s insurance carrier, Tungate said.
U.S. District Court bankruptcy Court records in Detroit show the Sumners filed for bankruptcy in 2012 but their case was dismissed for lack of payments. They filed again on Sept. 3, 2015, listing $133,750 in total assets, which included their $120,000 house, and $181,581 in liabilities, according to court records.
In a recent federal bankruptcy court record, Stephanie Sumner described herself as employed as an executive assistant for a Lake Orion roofing company and her husband’s occupation was listed as a mechanic with a Waterford Township company. They reported a joint income in 2014 of $93,336 and nearly $92,000 in 2013.
Neither the Sumners nor their attorney could be immediately reached for comment Friday.
Bond was set at $50,000/10 percent for Stephanie Sumner and $10,000 for her husband with conditions including she not use or possess any drugs and both must wear a GPS tether on release.
A preconference hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 8 with a preliminary exam Oct. 15.
Detroit News Staff Writer Robert Snell contributed.