William E. Burket, 50, was sentenced Thursday in Stark County Common Pleas Court for taking money from a teachers' union fund in Springfield Local Schools in Summit County.

CANTON  A Canal Fulton man was sentenced Wednesday to probation and must repay $20,000 he stole from a teachers' union in the Springfield Local School District in Summit County.

William E. Burket, 50, pleaded guilty last month to forgery, tampering with records and grand theft, all fourth-degree felonies.

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Kristin Farmer said that state law prohibited her from sentencing Burket to prison because he doesn't have a prior felony record.

During the hearing, Burket's attorney, Peter Cahoon, told the judge that his client made "some really bad choices," was remorseful and accepted responsibility and had repaid the full amount of $20,060 on Wednesday morning in the Stark County Clerk of Courts Office. Cahoon said that Burket had gotten involved with gambling and also collected sports memorabilia.

"There are explanations for what he did but he's not here to make excuses," Cahoon said. "He knows what he did is his own fault."

Following the hearing, Burket said of his actions, "It was bad judgment." Cahoon said that Burket will be resigning from his social studies teaching position at Springfield Local once his administrative leave ends in late February.

Toni Schnellinger, assistant Stark County prosecutor, said that the case was investigated by Canal Fulton police with the assistance of the Ohio Attorney General's office.

The improper financial transactions occurred in Stark County and at the defendant's home via computer, Schnellinger said. That is why he was indicted in Stark County although the teacher's union is in Summit County, she said.

Burket must complete 100 hours of community service and will be on probation for two years. Farmer said that Burket faces 18 months in prison if he violates the terms of probation. Burket also is subject to drug and alcohol monitoring and a mental health assessment. The defendant must complete any recommendations and continue undergoing counseling, the judge said.

"You betrayed the trust of your fellow teachers and you took money from them, (and) they are trusted with the enrichment of children (and) they clearly don't make enough money for the job that they do," Farmer said.

"If we are back here," she said, "the reality of those 18 months (in prison) will become very apparent to you."

Farmer also ordered Burket to write a letter to the union expressing sorrow and remorse. The defendant had served as treasurer of the Springfield Local Association of Classroom Teachers. Burket also is the former union president.

Burket spent the funds on various items and expenses, including sports memorabilia and sporting events, Schnellinger said. The thefts occurred in 2016 and earlier, according to the county prosecutor's office.

He is the former school bowling coach and had taught in the Springfield Local School District for roughly 25 years. Burket's annual salary is roughly $76,000.

Burket "realizes he has some issues he's got to work through," Cahoon said. "... He wants to get his life back on track."

The Surburbanite provided information for this article

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