Former Woodbury Principal Sentenced for Stealing Thousands

Photo from East River Side High School.

WOODBURY, Minn. – A former principal of East Ridge High School in Woodbury avoided jail time in his plea deal as he was sentenced for his misuse of district funds.

Aaron Harper was sentenced Thursday on one count of felony theft by swindle in Washington County District Court, reports the Pioneer Press. The plea deal saw two other felony theft charges dismissed.

District Judge B. William Ekstrum sentenced Harper to 240 hours of community service and five years probation, reports the Star Tribune. He was also ordered to pay back $7,500 to the South Washington County school district, and he must notify any potential future employers of his criminal history.

Harper admitted to using a school purchasing card to buy softball equipment for youth teams unaffiliated with the school, reports WJON. He pled guilty in May to stealing school funds for his personal use over the period of May 2013 through July 2014. In addition to using the school card for softball equipment, he also admitted to taking money from a school “slush fund” for personal uses.

Other personal uses of funds included purchases of weight loss drinks, Sam’s Club memberships, electronics, power tools, and $7,900 alone in cutlery knives, reports the Pioneer Press. Harper’s attorney Peter Wold claimed during sentencing that the school used and benefited from most of the purchases Harper made.

Prosecutor Kevin Mueller sought a 60 day stay in county jail without work release for Harper, reports the Star Tribune. Mueller called Harper’s actions a significant violation of the public trust, and said that Harper intimidated other school staff members into silence regarding the theft.

Harper agreed to pay back $5,000 in his plea deal while county prosecutors sought $14,000, reports the Pioneer Press. The $7,500 required falls in between those two numbers, while the community service total is more than twice the 100 hours Harper’s attorneys sought.

Anders Koskinen