By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — The former Leo L. Paluch Senior Housing Complex employee who admitted to stealing residents’ rent checks received probation and is required to pay back the money she took from the Allen Park Housing Commission.
Erica Pollack on Nov. 13 was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to make restitution for the money she took — $4,855. The commission sought $13,000 to cover its loss, legal expenses and accounting fees, but was not granted the full sum.
“She didn’t fight the charges and is committed to making restitution,” Allen Park Housing Commission Executive Director Andrew Hill said “At the end of the day, she offered what I felt was a sincere apology and accepted responsibility for the money she took. I think this was an honorable end to this story.”
Hill said the minimum payments made over her probationary period “would make the commission whole with a little extra” because the final $5,000 is more than the amount taken. The commission was awarded legal fees, but repayment was recommended and not an order made by the judge.
Wayne County Circuit Judge James Callahan presided over the lawsuit and agreed the commission should be made whole, but did not allow them to recoup their accounting fees because it was ruled that “accounting is a part of doing business.”
Hill said Callahan gave her the state’s maximum probationary period, so she could focus on working to make payments because “you can’t make restitution from a jail cell.”
Pollack’s monthly payments to the commission were set at a minimum of $100 a month and will start next month, which could leave a balance after her probation is complete. The details of how the additional money would be recovered by the commission was not released.
A resident approached Hill in January and asked about some irregularities involving several rent checks. Hill said he approached Pollack and terminated her after she told him about altering some rent checks. He said she modified the rent checks for her personal use.
The complex residents, housing commissioners, bank and the police were notified, in a letter from Hill, of the offense and the residents were assured it would not affect them financially. In the letter, Hill told residents the money would be recovered by the insurance company, the bank or through restitution made by Pollack.
Hill spoke with Pollack before the hearing and said she shared her “sincerest apologies” to the commission, the complex tenants and to Allen Park residents.
“While this was an unbelievable and unfortunate situation, (the commission) has accepted her apology which is important,” Hill said. “Pollack admitted her crime, apologized, and was willing to make the situation right with
“She also apologized to me personally and I have accepted her apology. This is the best possible outcome to this situation and gives everyone the opportunity to move forward.”
During an October meeting with prosecutors, Pollack pled guilty to an attempted embezzlement charge and received a diversion program. The program allows her to avoid jail time and the charge would not be made public if she does not violate the terms of her probation.
Hill said coverage of the situation on a local news station cited a source that said the plea deal was in exchange for information about a claim the housing commission committed systematic discrimination. The claim was the result of a letter from an Allen Park resident to Emergency Manager Joyce Parker, Hill said, and the resident said he heard third party that someone in the housing commission was involved in some form of discrimination.
“Discrimination is the worst thing you can accuse someone of, especially in my position, and the claim is flat-out wrong,” Hill said. “Those claims never came to the light and that is the end to that story. There is no evidence of any such claim and no discrimination claim was ever filed with the Department of Justice, Fair Housing Commission, or with the Michigan Civil Rights Division against the Allen Park Housing Commission.”
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])