The former head of the Lawrence teachers union on Tuesday admitted embezzling more than $95,000 in union dues.
The plea entered in Douglas County District Court by Wayne A. Kruse brought some relief to union leaders. But they still want to know why he did it.
"That's the million-dollar question," said Adela Solis, vice president of the Lawrence Education Assn.
"Or, the $95,000 question," said LEA President Sam Rabiola.
Another unanswered question is whether Kruse, a former sixth-grade teacher at Quail Run School, will spend time behind bars.
He will be sentenced Oct. 3 and would normally get probation, not prison time, under the state's sentencing guidelines. But prosecutor Steve Howe said he would ask Judge Jack Murphy to make an exception. He wants the judge to send Kruse to prison based on a law that allows a stiffer sentence in crimes that involve breach of financial trust.
If the judge granted the request, Kruse could face between seven and 22 months in prison, assuming he has no criminal background.
It's a request supported by LEA leaders. Solis said the punishment needed to fit the crime.
"That's what we teach our kids every day," she said.
Union leaders likely will be asked to testify at Kruse's sentencing in support of sending him to prison.
"I think the prosecution wants to impress upon the judge that Mr. Kruse was in a position of trust and that he abused that trust and that he lied to the people whose trust he abused ... and that he stole $95,000 from them," said David Schauner, general counsel for the Kansas-National Education Assn. "It ought to mean going to prison."
Kruse pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft and one count of forgery, also a felony. Prosecutors dropped one count of forgery as part of a plea agreement.
Kruse also agreed that he be ordered to pay $95,384.41 in restitution.
"I think all the parties are satisfied with the plea agreement," said Howe, an assistant Johnson County District Attorney assigned to the case as a special prosecutor.
Kruse was charged with taking union dues intended for the KNEA between November 2003 and August 2004. Union leaders said they tried to resolve the matter without going to police but that Kruse refused to meet with them or respond to letters.
Kruse declined to answer questions Tuesday while leaving the courtroom.
Solis and Rabiola said the LEA had built in new safeguards to ensure money can't be stolen, and that the group had not had to raise local dues.
"We've all rallied around each other," Solis said. "We're building our organization back up and we're moving forward."
- 6News video: Kruse pleads guilty in embezzlement case
- Judge orders Kruse to stand trial (5-13-05)
- 6News video: Kruse ordered to stand trial (05-12-05)
- Kruse begins defense on theft charges (05-10-05)
- Kruse offers resignation to district (03-29-05)
- 6News video: Kruse offers resignation (03-28-05)
- School district moves closer to firing Kruse (03-15-05)
- 6News video: School board terminates contract of teacher charged with embezzlement (03-14-05)
- Ex-union leader in court on theft charges (03-12-05)
- Charges filed against former LEA president (03-09-05)
- 6News video: Charges filed in missing dues case (03-08-05)
- Police file report on missing LEA dues (02-09-05)