Ex-school boards association employee pleads guilty to theft

A former Louisiana School Boards Association bookkeeper admitted Friday that she stole money from the statewide association over a 3½ -year period and agreed to pay the group $100,000 in restitution.

Doris Butler, 50, of Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty in state district court to one count of felony theft and was put on active supervised probation for five years.

State District Judge Richard Anderson told Butler the only reason he did not put her in prison was because the LSBA board agreed with the recommended sentence of probation and restitution. She faced up to 10 years in prison.

“I think it was a good resolution for all,” Butler’s attorney Ron Johnson said outside the courtroom. “The board made a wise decision.”

In a prepared statement, LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard said, “The Association is pleased this unfortunate situation has been resolved and is behind us; and, now that the matter has been brought to closure, we can continue to focus more vigorously on our mission of leadership, service and support for school boards.”

Anderson said the probation and restitution were part of a negotiated plea.

“It’s a substantial amount of money,” Assistant state Attorney General Jeff Traylor said outside the courtroom. “We’re confident she’ll be able to pay the money.”

Johnson said Butler is self-employed, caring for elderly sick people.

Former LSBA Executive Director Nolton J. Senegal Sr., of Rayne, who is accused of helping Butler conceal her theft of money from the association, is charged with one count of accessory after the fact to felony theft and faces up to five years in prison.

Senegal’s next court date is May 31.

Traylor told Anderson that Butler’s theft occurred from March 30, 2008, until Aug. 26, 2011.

Johnson said Butler began taking the money while her husband was battling cancer and she continued to take money after he died.

“I don’t mean that as an excuse, but that was the start of it,” he said.

Butler resigned from the LSBA in 2011. She worked for the association for 19 years, Johnson said.

LSBA officials announced in September 2011 that Senegal had been fired for failing to timely report allegations of wrongdoing to the leadership. An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted him in March 2012. He has pleaded not guilty.

Butler maintained the accounts for the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents-Retired and the Louisiana Caucus of Black School Board Members and had access to checks/funds sent by mail to the LSBA, according to an affidavit of probable cause.