ROCKLAND — Jury selection was completed Monday and testimony will begin this morning in the Knox County Superior Court trial of Frances Hernandez, the former Thomaston town bookkeeper accused of embezzling more than $32,000 in excise tax receipts.
Hernandez, 36, is charged with stealing $32,468 from Thomaston between Jan. 1, 1991, and March 15, 1993, while she was employed as the town’s bookkeeper. She has pleaded not guilty.
The missing tax money was first noticed in March 1993 during a state auditor’s review of the town books. The precise amount missing was determined by a special audit approved by voters the next fall.
Part of Hernandez’s job was to prepare the bank deposits. An investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office found deposits in Hernandez’s personal accounts in excess of her known sources of income.
She was indicted by the Knox County grand jury a year ago and has been free on $10,000 bail.
At the time of her indictment, Hernandez was Rockport’s finance director. She was suspended without pay, but with medical insurance continued, until the resolution of the charges against her. She subsequently filed suit against Rockport, claiming she was suspended without cause.
Selecting the jury of nine men and five women, including two alternates, took the entire afternoon, partly due to the extensive media coverage given to the discovery that money was missing, the ensuing investigation, Hernandez’s indictment and her suspension in Rockport. Most of the 86-member jury pool rose when Justice Donald Marden asked if any had heard of the case.