Ex-Paonia official stole $400,000, CBI says

A former financial officer for the town of Paonia is accused of stealing nearly $400,000 from the town nearly five years for personal expenses.

Kristin Chesnik, 42, was issued a summons Tuesday on suspicion of one count of theft, a class 3 felony, following an investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Delta County Sheriff’s Department and the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, according to CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina.

The probe, which relied on cooperation from the town of Paonia, found Chesnik allegedly misused nearly $400,000 in town funds for personal payouts between January 2007 and December 2011. The investigation found Chesnik cashed town checks and made ATM and debit card transactions, Medina said.

Medina declined to specify the types of expenses Chesnik allegedly made with town funds.

Chesnik’s first court appearance is scheduled for next month.

Phone messages left Tuesday by The Daily Sentinel at Chesnik’s Delta County home were received with the same message, indicating the “mailbox is full.”

Chesnik resigned from the town on Jan. 25.

Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman has said he was notified Dec. 14, 2011, of “potential problems” by an auditor hired by the town to complete an audit on 2010 finances. Chesnik was placed on administrative leave from the town Dec. 16, 2011.

Chesnik was hired by the town in 2004 and had worked as finance director since 2006.

Schwieterman on Tuesday said authorities had requested Paonia town officials not discuss extensive details of the probe with media. Many town employees have been told to expect subpoenas to testify, he said.

“We’re eager to move forward the best criminal case we can,” he said.

Schwieterman said he worked with Chesnik “a long time” prior to the criminal probe.

“It’s emotionally upsetting ... we’re a small town,” he said.

Schwieterman said Chesnik’s son attends the same school as his daughter. They sometimes see each other dropping kids off in the morning.

“We wave,” he said.


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