A fourth Bucks County official charged in the political corruption case that rocked the Register of Wills Office was sentenced Tuesday to six to 12 months of house arrest.
The sentence for the second deputy, Rebecca Kiefer, was less severe than the three- to six-month prison term administrator Candace Quinn received, although the two pleaded guilty to the same offenses of forcing employees to work the polls for Republican candidates, paying them with unauthorized compensatory time, and trying to cover up the practice.
"I'm glad this is over and I can move on with my life," Kiefer, 65, of Warrington, said after hugging and kissing relatives and friends. "This has encompassed every minute of the day. I feel fortunate to move on."
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge John Braxton, who handled the politically charged case to avoid conflict of interest, noted the attendance of the two dozen supporters who filled half the gallery.
"I believe all the people who came here truly see something redeemable in you," the judge told Kiefer. "They believe you can give something back" to the community. "I know you can."
Braxton also cited Kiefer's medical conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and hypertension, and her 25-year county career. She retired in August 2010, one month after the District Attorney's Office began its investigation.
"Despite your maladies, you went to work," the judge said. "The services you gave to county taxpayers were good services, done without favor or political consideration."
Kiefer also was sentenced to 600 hours of community service and two years' probation on the charges of criminal conspiracy and theft, and was ordered to make restitution to the county of $6,533.25, a conservative estimate of the comp time paid to office workers.
District Attorney David Heckler said he was disappointed by the sentence.
"I'm not sure it sent the message that needs to be sent to people who abuse the public trust," Heckler said.
The comp time system instituted by Register of Wills Barbara Reilly was in place when Kiefer started as a clerk in 1985, she testified. In those early years, she worked the polls like other employees, but never took comp time because "I didn't feel comfortable with it."
She worked her way up to third in command under Quinn and Reilly, who eventually became an absentee boss but who made all policy and disciplinary decisions, Kiefer said.
"I tolerated the comp time system - that was poor judgment, bad judgment," Kiefer testified. "I was afraid of losing my job and my future. I truly thought that if I turned the other way and wasn't responsible for it, I didn't do anything wrong."
Kiefer pleaded guilty to obstruction and tampering for destroying evidence of the comp time, known as "pink time" because the records were kept on pink paper. She said the only documents she shredded or deleted from her computer were from her role as a Warrington supervisor.
Her lawyer, Robert Goldman, also denied that Kiefer stole money the public paid to make copies. Kiefer had pleaded no contest to the theft charge.
Kiefer will pay for her actions for the rest of her life, Goldman said, noting she lost her county pension, worth more than $300,000.
The sentencing concludes the case that started nearly two years ago with an investigation by the Controller's Office, leading to an eight-month grand jury investigation and last year's charges.
Reilly, 75, of Bensalem, who was charged with presiding over the comp-time system but leaving the implementation to Kiefer and Quinn, was spared a prison term because of her age and declining health, and is serving six months of house arrest.
The fourth official, first deputy James McCullen, 76, of Bristol, received two years' probation because his role was considered minor.