Former post office employee Herbert Leon Conolly was sentenced last week to three months’ imprisonment for stealing money from the post office cash float, but will spend that term wearing an electronic monitor and obeying strict curfews that give him just enough time to travel to work and back.
Mr. Conolly, 37, pleaded guilty in August, 2017 to charges of false accounting and breach of trust in late 2016, when he was a senior customer service officer. In that position he managed the General Post Office public counter and supervised three junior officers.
The defendant admitted taking $3,400 from his cash float and using it to pay a sub-contractor who had worked for a private business Mr. Conolly had owned. He replaced the cash with a check from that business account, although the account had been closed for two years.
Mr. Conolly knew that the cash float was not to be used for personal purposes, but said he had hoped to replace the funds.
He was terminated from his position and later found employment in the private sector.
In passing sentence on Feb. 16, Magistrate Valdis Foldats examined three issues: the fact that Mr. Conolly was a civil servant; whether his dishonesty reached the level that required a punishment of imprisonment; and whether imprisonment had to be immediate.
The magistrate accepted that this was a “one-off” opportunistic offense, but that aspect was overwhelmed by the breach of trust factor. He pointed out that Mr. Conolly was a public servant legally obligated “to adhere to the highest ethical, moral and professional standards at all times,” and he was subject to the Public Servant’s Code of Conduct.
The magistrate used a starting point of 28 weeks’ custody. Mitigating factors, including Mr. Conolly’s previous good character, his cooperation with the investigation and admission of responsibility and remorse, adjusted that sentence downward to 18 weeks. With one-third credit for the guilty pleas, the final sentence was 12 weeks.
The magistrate determined that immediate imprisonment was not necessary because he could impose a penalty restricting the defendant’s liberty.
“The sentence I am about to impose is only slightly less onerous than immediate imprisonment and, thus, preserves the court’s message that it is a serious breach of trust to misappropriate public funds and create false accounting documents while employed in the public service,” he said.
He handed down a sentence of 12 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for two years. Under the Alternative Sentencing Law, he imposed a curfew for 12 weeks with electronic monitoring.
“The defendant’s liberty will be restricted as if he were in prison, while allowing him to maintain his employment so that he can pay compensation to the Cayman Islands Postal Service, but the islands will not be burdened with the costs associated with imprisonment. There will be no other freedom permitted – no weekends, no evening excursions, and there is no remission earned.”
The magistrate also invited the portfolio responsible for electronic monitoring arrangements to consider seeking payment for the costs from the person being monitored.
The magistrate allowed one year to pay the $3,400 compensation.