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Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015

Judge sides with resident in city sewer refund dispute

Thursday, July 26, 2012

McCOOK, Nebraska -- A McCook woman who had been charged by the city for more than a year for sewer services that weren't being provided was brought up on theft charges after she cashed a refund check that the city mistakingly wrote to her for more than six times the intended amount.

The woman, 46-year-old Lisa J. Weiss of 1226 East B Street, was found not guilty of the offense of theft of property delivered by mistake in a ruling handed down June 29, in Red Willow County Court.

According to court documents the city noticed in 2008 that property owned by Dan and Christy Stevens at 1226 East B Street was not being charged for sewer services like other properties in the area.

Officials subsequently assumed it was on city sewer services, and began charging the property owners for the service.

In January 2012 it was discovered the sewer at the residence was going to a cesspool and was not connected to the city sewer system.

Weiss had rented the property from the Stevens for a little more than a year, and after she and the Stevens requested refunds from the city for sewer charges they had paid, the city agreed to reimburse the Stevens $953 and Weiss $379.

There was a dispute between Weiss and city staff, who wanted to apply a credit to Weiss's account for the remaining balance instead of issuing her a check.

City staff ultimately agreed to zero out her account with the city and write her a refund check in the amount of $154.

The utility director warned Weiss in a letter that her account had been habitually delinquent and if she failed to keep the account up to date the city would proceed with collection "with whatever legal means are available!"

City staff then provided the Stevens and Weiss each with their own refund check for $953 on Feb. 10, 2012.

Weiss cashed her check on her way out of town and when she returned to McCook four days later, found a message on her answering machine that she was being charged with theft of property lost or delivered by mistake.

She was subsequently contacted by a McCook police officer on Feb. 16 that informed her she had until Feb. 20 to return the nearly $600 she was refunded by mistake or charges would be pursued.

Weiss offered to make payment arrangements with the city but the city refused.

A McCook Police Officer subsequently contacted Weiss on March 9 and informed her that since she was being charged with a felony, it would be necessary to photograph, fingerprint and issue her a citation at the police station.

Weiss cooperated and after going to the police station was cited by the officer with the misdemeanor offense of theft of property lost, mislaid or delivered by mistake.

Weiss was assigned a public defender in April before entering a not guilty plea later that month.

Court documents indicated that the state needed to prove that she not only was aware that the amount was delivered by mistake, but also that she failed to take reasonable steps to restore the property to the city and did so with the intent to deprive.

The offer from Weiss to make payment arrangements with the city to pay the difference was deemed to be a reasonable measure in showing her efforts to restore the money to its proper owner, resulting in the finding of not guilty.


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