Former Penn trustee will get jail time

Punishment has been doled out to Jeff Dean, the former elected trustee in Penn Township who pleaded guilty to felony counts of Official Misconduct and Conflict of Interest.

Dean was sentenced to jail time despite his apologies and pleas for probation.

Dean will have to serve 90 days behind bars at the St. Joseph County Jail, followed by 15 months of probation.

Dean will start serving his sentence on August 20th.
Dean accepted an offer from the judge to serve 60 consecutive days behind bars—followed by 15 consecutive weekends.

“I believe that some time in jail was appropriate,” said Penn Township Advisory Board Member Kent Hizer, who attended today’s sentencing hearing. “I guess you could argue that maybe he should spend more time, but there are some extenuating circumstances and you have to have empathy for his son.”

Dean became emotional and fought back tears today as he said he was attached to the hip of his 8 year old autistic son. Dean asked the court to let him be a dad, and avoid jail time.

“We’re all officials of the public trust,” said Hizer. “He violated that trust in every sense of the word.”

Dean admitted wrongdoing, but he also downplayed it. Dean said he “looked the other way” as Sarah Sharp—hired to clean the township offices—counted her hours and apparently overbilled.

Dean’s attorney Anthony Zappia said in court that what Dean didn’t do is “take money and put it in his own pocket.” Some took exception to that remark.

“He (Dean) shared quarters with Sarah Sharp, obviously in most situations where people are cohabitating, they share expenses and I certainly don’t think the judge believed, nor did the prosecutor believe that he wasn’t receiving some benefit from that money coming into that household,” said Hizer.

The prosecutor pointed out that overbilling that began at about six hours per pay period had reached 66 hours per pay period by 2010 when Sharp and Dean lived together.

The prosecution argued that Dean’s punishment should be significant to reinforce the public trust.

Dean’s attorney unsuccessfully asked the judge to treat Dean’s crimes as misdemeanors. Anthony Zappia says that Dean wanted to go back to school and become a teacher.

While Dean offered an apology, some felt it did not go far enough.

“He apologized to the judge, he apologized to his family, he apologized to the prosecutor for having to spend time, but not one time has he apologized to the taxpayers of Penn Township who footed the bill for this all, and I guess at the end of the day that's probably the one thing that I'm disappointed about,” said Kent Hizer.

Dean’s plea agreement specifically stated that the matter of restitution for excess wages paid would be focused on Sarah Sharp as her criminal case moves through the courts.

Dean could face civil litigation seeking damages for his involvement.

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