Prison Term For Township Theft

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SCRANTON — A former township secretary in Lackawanna County is now sitting behind bars starting a sentence of at least nine months for stealing from the township’s funds.

And now, supervisors from Ransom Township say they’ve had to suspend some road projects because of the stolen money.

Kathleen Zielinski surrendered to face theft charges back in September. She later pleaded guilty to stealing about $100,000 from Ransom Township where she was secretary.

She never offered an explanation until right before a judge sentenced her to nine to 23 months behind bars.

In court, Zielinski explained why she used the township’s credit card for herself saying “I just got caught up in a snowball that started rolling rapidly down hill.”

The current Ransom Township supervisors said they’re caught in a snowball too. They said residents will pay for Zielinski’s crimes for a long time, in taxes or in lost services.

“We lost too much, it put us too far behind, it put us too far behind on every project,” said Supervisor David Bird.

Township supervisors said most of their expenses come from road projects. For example, Evergreen Drive was scheduled to be re-done this year, but it won’t be, along with at least two other road projects. Supervisors said they couldn’t spend the money until they knew how much was stolen.

According to court papers, during her last few years as Ransom Township Secretary Zielinski started paying her electric bills with township money and writing phony paychecks to herself.

“We’re more involved now with what happens in the office than we were before. She was actually the only one in charge. It is not that way now,” said Supervisor Bud Brown.

The supervisors said they’ve put checks and balances in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. But, residents think they’ll still pay for this crime for a long time to come.

“We hear about a lot of these cases unfortunately in the news and maybe if the penalties were more severe that we would see less of this,” added resident Barbara Jones.

Kathleen Zielinski was sent immediately to Lackawanna County Prison, she’s sentenced to spend at least nine months there. Then start to pay back $100,000.