ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge on Friday sealed the criminal record of former Lorain County Community Action Agency President Anna Taylor-Carter.
The former head of the poverty-fighting agency was convicted in 2004 of falsification, tampering with evidence, theft and theft in office for stealing from LCCAA and then trying to cover up the crimes.
During a hearing Friday, Taylor-Carter, 54, argued that she didn’t realize that she was committing crimes when she used agency resources for her own personal gain. She was accused of using an agency credit card to buy $86 worth of makeup and to pay for $900 worth of meals on business trips for which she had already been reimbursed.
Taylor-Carter, who was cleared by a jury of seven additional charges, also created a fake contract to cover up how much LCCAA’s catering company, Red Ball Catering, had spent on her November 2001 wedding.
“At the time I really did not know that I was breaking any law,” she said Friday.
Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Riedthaler said Taylor-Carter didn’t deserve to have her criminal record sealed.
“The state finds the defendant’s actions in a position of community trust absolutely reprehensible,” Riedthaler said.
She also argued that Taylor-Carter had undermined the already fragile trust the residents of Lorain County have in public officials. She said that lack of faith in public leaders has led to the inability of the county commissioners to pass sales tax increases.
“When things like this happen, it has a huge impact on the community in addition to just bolstering that lack of trust that the community already doesn’t have for us,” Riedthaler said. “When you’re in a position of public trust, you need to earn and keep that trust. And additionally, you need to accept responsibility when you make a mistake and that has never been done in this case.”
Riedthaler also said prosecutors were worried that Taylor-Carter would commit additional crimes if she were put in a position of trust. Taylor-Carter has said she wanted her record sealed so she would be able to pursue career opportunities.
But Taylor-Carter said that she has taken responsibility for what she did, including serving her time on probation and repaying the agency $5,681.
“I apologized and admitted that I made some mistakes,” Taylor-Carter said.
She said that she has done volunteer work, including in the ministry and working for nonprofits and schools, since her conviction.
“I have done everything I could do except for go back in time and undo what I’ve done and if I could do that, I would have done that as well,” she said.
Taylor-Carter also argued that she never intentionally stole from LCCAA and had worked to improve the agency during her tenure.
Her leadership of the agency was often controversial and she drew criticism for improperly firing workers and refusing to release public records, a move that drew a lawsuit from The Chronicle-Telegram.
She also came under fire for using agency resources to pay for a plane ticket to Florida for her husband, a bill that was paid the day The Chronicle-Telegram published a story on the issue.
Taylor-Carter was fired in January 2003, a month after she was first indicted, but was brought back by a faction of the LCCAA board a month later. She was finally terminated from her job in March 2003. A consultant later insisted that the entire board resign because of the infighting over Taylor-Carter.