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Bethel Park: Ex-librarian sentenced to 3 years' probation

Woman has paid back money

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

By Barbara White Stack and Jim McKinnon, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

Dorothy "Dot" Corbett pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing more than $51,000 from the Bethel Park Library where she had been the director.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen A. Durkin ordered Corbett to make restitution to the library, but she already paid back the money in two payments last year.

Durkin also ordered Corbett to serve three years of probation and to perform 200 hours of community service at Mom's House, a nonprofit day-care program for single parents with centers in Swissvale, Brookline and the North Side.

Corbett, 58, of Bethel Park, also is looking for a job.

She has been unemployed since last summer when she was fired by the Bethel Park Library board after serving 16 years as library director.

Corbett disappeared in February 1999. She fled to Jacksonville, Fla., prompting an investigation that discovered more than $37,000 was missing from two of the library's accounts.

She surrendered to authorities March 1, 1999, and paid back $37,357 in April.

Further investigation showed possibly $43,000 more was missing, but only $11,479 of that amount could be verified.

Corbett also paid that money back.

According to court records, between Jan. 12, 1996, and Oct. 28, 1998, Corbett made a dozen payments to herself in amounts ranging from $405.95 to $10,000. As library director, she had been the lone bookkeeper in charge of disbursing funds from accounts.

At her court appearance yesterday, no one seemed interested in having Corbett jailed for her conviction.

"I've never had a case where someone started paying restitution before the trial," said Assistant District Attorney Marc Clark.

"The police chief and the library board president have the highest regard for her, and there's no objection to probation," Clark said.

Carl A. Parise, Corbett's defense attorney, said that his client has been remorseful since the beginning of the investigation. She has been humiliated and embarrassed by the ordeal, he said.

"This is an aberration from someone who has been a model citizen all her life," Parise said.

Corbett, speaking on her own behalf before Durkin, apologized.

"I betrayed the trust of the library and the community and the children," she said, pausing to choke back tears. "I am very sorry."

Corbett has been doing volunteer work since she lost her job, she said. She has begun working in her church library and she knits items for babies born with addiction to crack cocaine, she said.

Clark and the library board requested that Corbett be ordered to pay for the investigation and audits, which cost the library about $20,000.

Durkin did not immediately rule on the request. The judge said later yesterday that the audit costs may be a subject of a civil proceeding.

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