Probable cause found in county Highway Department case
Mercer County Circuit Judge Richard Zimmer found probable cause Thursday to continue the case against Kristin Rothlisberger, 51, Aledo. A Mercer County Highway Department employee, Rothlisberger was arrested in April on four felony charges.
She is charged with theft of governmental property, a Class-2 felony, two counts of forging her supervisor's initials on a time card, both Class-3 felonies, as well as official misconduct for allegedly giving herself and another employee an unauthorized pay increase. That charge is also a Class-3 felony.
Rothlisberger pleaded not guilty to all counts. Judge Zimmer ruled after a one-day recess.
During a four-hour preliminary hearing July 7, audit information presented revealed some Mercer County Highway Department employees are being under-paid while others are over-paid.
State's Attorney Greg McHugh said, "Our job at the county is to go where the evidence leads us."
Rothlisberger turned down a plea deal offered by the state, which would have put her on court supervision in return of a guilty plea to attempted theft, a misdemeanor. If convicted of a felony she will lose her pension. The most serious charges carry a possible prison sentence of 3-7 years and a fine of up to $25,000.
"I’m firmly convinced my client is innocent, I believe she will be exonerated,” said Defense Attorney David Morrison. Morrison suggested the reason for the recess is the evidence presented to Judge Zimmer made it difficult hard for him to rule, “because it was a tough decision. We certainly were hopeful the court was going to dismiss some or all of the counts after Tuesday’s hearing, however, every judge is required to look at the evidence more favorable for the state.”
Rothlisberger is free on $50,000 bond and is on paid administrative leave. A closed administrative hearing is tentatively set for July 28 with the personnel committee to discuss grievances with Rothlisberger. That committee is composed of members from the Mercer County Board, Chairman Brian Anseeuw, Joe Vann and Assistant State’s Attorney Meeghan Lee.