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Fired clerk pleads guilty in theft

A former employee in the City Clerk's Office who was fired twice for stealing on the job pleaded guilty to petit larceny on Wednesday as part of a plea bargain.

Tina Pugh, 35, of North Avenue, had felony charges of falsifying business records and forgery dismissed in City Court as part of the agreement.

Pugh promised as part of the agreement to never again seek a job in the clerk's office and not to challenge the city's assertion that she isn't entitled to collect unemployment benefits.

"She is no longer collecting benefits," said her lawyer, James Faso.

Faso said the Niagara County District Attorney's Office has recommended three years' probation, but City Court Judge Diane L. Vitello reminded Pugh that she could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 when she is sentenced on Feb. 16.

Pugh lost her job the first time after she was arrested in December 2007. In that case, she pleaded guilty to stealing $30 from the clerk's office. A judge granted her an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.

After she repaid the money, she was fired.

She was given her job back because an arbitrator ruled that the termination was excessive.

When she was charged a second time June 8 with stealing from the clerk's office, Pugh told police she had begged city administrators not to put her in charge of money again.

"We don't have special categories of jobs for people who tell us in advance that they are dishonest," Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Wednesday.

Pugh, an account clerk in the dog license office, admitted in court and to city detectives that the second time she was stealing on the job she had been changing fees, doctoring records and pocketing the difference.

She also faced a felony forgery charge after her dog bit someone and she forged a dog license for the unlicensed pet.

Faso said his client had stolen less than $500 over several months prior to her second arrest. He said he asked prosecutors to allow the plea to lesser charges because she also had been punished by losing her job.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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