The former director of the Jeanne Bussard Center in Frederick has been sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court after a judge ruled that she had continually misled authorities investigating the center’s finances.
Jeanne Dalaba, the former head of the center, which provided training education and work for adults with developmental disabilities from 1965 until closing this year, was taken to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center immediately following the sentencing on Tuesday by Frederick County Circuit Court Judge G. Edward Dwyer, Jr.
Dalaba, 65, who resided in Florida, may also face criminal charges of perjury.
David Gilliss, the attorney for Baltimore-based Invotex Group, which is investigating the center’s finances after taking receivership of the facility earlier this year, said he planned to forward her October court testimony to the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if charges would be filed.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith was not immediately available for comment.
Invotex Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Raymond J. Peroutka, Jr. said the group wants to reopen the center, but the financial investigation has slowed that process.
Gillis said in court Tuesday that Dalaba took $51,000 in center funding in July with what she claimed was the approval of the center’s board of directors in meetings in May and June, but that the board included two fabricated members. He also said in court that Dalaba had sold two vehicles that belonged to the center without permission.
Dalaba was initially found in contempt of court by Dwyer on Aug.13 after he ruled she continually misled investigators who were attempting to determine what led to the center’s financial woes.
Dalaba was found to have fabricated meeting minutes and board members, creating extra obstacles in the investigation, Dwyer said.
“These were lies,” he said in court Tuesday. “... You had authority of a board that didn’t exist.”
Stanley Tashoff, an attorney representing Dalaba, told the court that his client continually misled investigators and lied about her actions.
“She led [them] on a wild goose chase, to me, your honor, is something out of a television series,” Tashoff said. “She did not have to do this. She had never been in this situation before. She thought she could get away with it.”
Gilliss told Dwyer several times that Dalaba intentionally created difficulties for investigators, continually providing fake or wrong phone numbers and email addresses.
“Mr. Tashoff just put the best possible spin on this, and it is damning,” he said. “... Her claim that she paid herself $51,000 at board approval is a lie. There was no board.”
Given a chance to speak, Dalaba apologized for misleading investigators, but continued to insist that the money she took was payment for previous loans she made to the center.
“I obviously spiraled out of control,” she said. “I’m very sorry for what I’ve done, and the center did owe me that money.”
In addition to her sentence of up to six months, the judge ordered Dalaba to produce the computer and portable hard drives that were used to create correspondence between the board members.
She was also ordered to repay the $51,000 she took, as well as the costs required for Invotex to attempt to track down the false leads she had given them and assist in contacting other people associated with the investigation.
Gilliss did not estimate the costs for tracking down false leads.
Dalaba’s attorney was also dismissed from the case after the sentencing because Dalaba said she was unable to continue to pay him.
She will be able to apply for a public defender, Dwyer said.
Dalaba will appear in court in a review hearing at 9 a.m. on Dec. 13.