Former Falmouth deputy clerk guilty of fraud
More than two years after first being caught with his hand in the public purse, a former Falmouth Town council officer has finally been brought to book.
Simon John Polglase, of Halamanning, Goldsithney, pleaded guilty to eleven counts of fraud at Truro Crown Court last week.
The 45-year-old dishonestly abused his position to make fraudulent expenses claims between February 2007 and the same month in 2010, the court heard.
He had previously denied all charges, but eventually admitted last Wednesday to stealing of taxpayers’ money while employed as the deputy town clerk and finance officer at Falmouth Town Council.
Polglase started at the council in 2003 as an administrative officer, but earned a promotion two years later as he proved “efficient and effective in the job,” said prosecutor Jo Martin.
He began defrauding the council in 2006, she added, altering his expenses claims after they had been countersigned by a superior officer.
“In order to make the claim look as respectable as possible he would add receipts to the back of the claim,” she said.
“Those receipts, while adding up more or less to the amounts on the form, were quite clearly personal and this is something that he did over the course of three years, if not longer.”
In police interview, he tried to shift the blame to other members of staff and “suggested that someone else had removed the paper receipts and replace them with his personal receipts,” Miss Martin said.
A search of Polglase’s office after he left uncovered documents with “apparently forged signatures” and tracing paper that had been used to make the forgeries, the court heard.
Michael Melville-Shreeve, for the defence, described the thefts as “the acts of a man who felt very unhappy at work.”
“He felt he was marginalised and not properly managed and he felt cruelly treated,” he said.
Polglase, who has suffered from depression since his arrest, claimed he felt “a sense of injustice” when the rules on time off in lieu were changed “to his detriment” after taking compassionate leave following his brother’s stabbing.
“He’s not your run-of-the-mill venal person, taking because he needed the money or for the pleasure of it,” Mr Melville-Shreeve said.
Recorder Paul Grumbar, who sentenced Polglase to 18 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months and 100 hours unpaid work, said: "You were employed by the town council in a position of trust and people who pay their taxes and their dues expect public servants to deal with their money honestly. “They don't expect to have it stolen by people like you.
“I suppose it could be said that sooner or later you were bound to be discovered.”
Polglase, who now works for a software firm in Redruth, was ordered to pay £500 towards the £3,500 prosecution costs.
Speaking outside the court, town clerk Mark Williams said the council were committed to recovering the money stolen by Polglase and would be pursuing him through the civil courts.
This conviction should “send a message” that town and parish councils are not fair game for dishonest individuals, he said.
“He’s a person we worked with every day and a person we trusted to do the job,” he added.
“The council is pleased that this protracted matter has come to an end.”
Current finance officer Ruth Thomas said the systems used to pay expenses claims had now been changed, so as to prevent anything like this happening again.
Councillor Allyson Biggins described Polglase’s conviction as “closure,” adding: “As chair of staffing, I’m just relieved this has gone through.
“The officers and staff can now close that door and start getting on with the job that they are there to do.”