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Eddie Schmidt

Cops charge Eddie Schmidt with grand, petit larceny as association continues search for missing finances

Former Poquott civic President Eddie Schmidt goes over civic matters over the summer. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Former Poquott Village Trustee Eddie Schmidt, who was accused of stealing more than $23,000 from the civic association while the 22-year-old was the group’s president, was arrested and charged with grand and petit larcenies last week.

Police said Schmidt, who was arrested at 10:45 a.m. on Aug. 17 at his home on Birchwood Avenue, was charged with two counts of petit larceny and one count of grand larceny for incidents of theft that occurred between September 2013 and May 2014, according to a police spokeswoman. She said Schmidt took cash from the Poquott Civic Association.

Tad Scharfenberg, an attorney representing Schmidt, called the situation “outrageous,” and said “from what I’ve seen he’s actually done nothing wrong.” In a phone interview on Tuesday, Scharfenberg defended his client and said he didn’t steal any money.

“They’re just unhappy with the way it was spent.”

Scharfenberg said Schmidt didn’t spend any of the money on himself. Asked what he spent the money on, Schmidt’s attorney said they’re analyzing that now, and he called it a “situation where I don’t think he did a great job of record keeping.”

“This is a really good kid,” Scharfenberg said. “College kid, working hard. They’re trying to blow him up and it’s not right.”

The arrest marks a milestone in a saga that had gripped the village earlier this year, when civic officials alleged he took more than $23,000 while he was the president of the Poquott Civic Association.

Officials had claimed that while president, Schmidt used money raised at civic events to purchase things unrelated to civic expenses, like gasoline, Vineyard Vines clothing and dining at gourmet restaurants.

Schmidt resigned as president of the group last September.

Earlier this year, Schmidt fired back against the accusations in an email, breaking his silence since the allegations arose late last year. He called the claims rumors.

“The silence was a courtesy as I thought the present Board was genuinely working towards a mutual agreement between us to benefit the community. Unfortunately, the board was not genuine in its dealings, and has acted contrary to resolution,” Schmidt said in the letter. “I am writing this letter now to explain the situation, as I have genuine concerns regarding the presentation of the information by the Board, and by the climate of rumor that has spread throughout our village.”

In that letter, he spoke about the events he helped bring forward as president of the civic, despite carrying a hefty workload while attending college at 19 years old.

“I did my best to work towards common ground while rumors became widespread, and incorrect information and damaging assumptions were presented.”

In March, Poquott Civic Association officials spoke publicly about a potential settlement between Schmidt and the board for $15,000. President Carol Pesek said at the time that the settlement offer was for $15,000 — $5,000 less than the money originally demanded late last year — and also included a controversial confidentiality clause that would forbid the board from speaking of the matter. There was also a nondisclosure clause that would forbid it from letting the community know where the money came from, and an agreement that Schmidt would not be prosecuted, the civic board said. But civic officials couldn’t get past the confidentiality clause.

It’s not immediately clear what happened to that settlement offer.

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The Incorporated Village of Poquott. File photo

The Village of Poquott is ready to move forward after a year of infighting and accusations involving an investigation of former village trustee Eddie Schmidt and a missing $23,000, its newly elected officials said in the wake of last week’s vote.

Poquott villagers elected three new trustees and a justice last week. Harold Berry and Jeff Koppelson won the two trustee positions carrying two-year terms, while Sandra Nicoletti secured a trustee position carrying a one-year term. Paul Edelson won the race for justice as a write-in candidate.

Berry and Koppelson were elected with 105 votes and 131 votes, respectively, beating out Gary Garofano, the third candidate vying for one of the spots.

Nicoletti received 113 votes over Karen Sartain, who garnered 69 votes, the village clerk said.

The village did not have any names on the ballot for the justice position, so the spot went to Edelson, who received 96 votes, over Alexander Melbartis — another write-in — who received 87 votes.

“The previous board for the past year has done nothing but fight,” Berry said in a phone interview this week. “I think very little [has] gotten done.”

Berry has lived in the village for over 30 years, he said, and has served as a trustee before. Most recently, he filled the position of maintenance commissioner. The Village of Poquott government website lists his responsibilities as “roadways, lights, signs and drains.”

He said his experiences put him in the position to do some good for the Village of Poquott. Berry said that he campaigned on the platform of “truth, fairness for all and to do good things for the village.” His election has not clouded that view, he said.

“There’s a lot that can be done for the village, and I’m already in the process of doing that,” Berry said. “The board has to come together and work as one unit.”

Koppelson was a health care administrator and has a degree in administration, so he said he is ready to start putting that knowledge to use to help Poquott, he said.

“I’m looking forward to getting started. I ran to see if we could resolve some of the bad feelings and gridlock and start to reduce that,” Koppelson said during a phone interview this week. “Once we get started I’m confident that we can make that happen.”

Koppelson moved to Poquott in 1972, he said.

“People tend to have allegiances based on how long they’ve lived in the village,” Koppelson said, and he expressed his desire to eliminate that.

Koppelson acknowledged that his new position doesn’t make him responsible for “defense of the nation, or anything serious like that,” he said with a chuckle, but he does hope to impact the village positively during his two-year term.

Nicoletti served as a trustee from 2002 to 2014, according to village clerk Joe Newfield. She lost her seat in the 2014 election, then filled in on an interim basis after Schmidt resigned while she waited for the 2015 election. Nicoletti did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Edelson is an attorney at law and a mediator according to his email signature. He declined a request for further comment for this story.

Poquott Civic Association President Carol Pesek says her group is still pursuing $23,000 they allege former President Eddie Schmidt mishandled when he was at the helm. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Missing money has the Poquott Civic Association approaching a boiling point.

An ongoing mystery regarding the $23,000 civic members alleged former President Eddie Schmidt mishandled two years ago reached a new milestone Thursday when the 21-year-old fired off a mass email to the civic. In the email, Schmidt outlined his tenure as president, explaining his silence since the accusations arose late last year and how they have affected him.

“The silence was a courtesy as I thought the present Board was genuinely working towards a mutual agreement between us to benefit the community. Unfortunately, the board was not genuine in its dealings, and has acted contrary to resolution,” Schmidt said in the letter. “I am writing this letter now to explain the situation, as I have genuine concerns regarding the presentation of the information by the Board, and by the climate of rumor that has spread throughout our village.”

Schmidt went on to detail the events he helped push as president despite a hefty workload while attending college at 19 years old. He said accusations, which he referred to as rumors, deeply hurt him.

“I did my best to work towards common ground while rumors became widespread, and incorrect information and damaging assumptions were presented.”

Schmidt, who resigned as president of the Poquott Civic Association in September, was accused of stealing more than $23,000 from the organization during his time at the helm. Civic leaders allege that while president, the 21-year-old used money raised at civic events to purchase things unrelated to civic expenses, like gasoline, Vineyard Vines clothing and dining at gourmet restaurants.

Members of the civic spoke up on the matter at Thursday’s monthly meeting for the first time in months as legal matters were ongoing. Civic President Carol Pesek brought new details on a potential settlement between her group and Schmidt as the parties try to reconcile the thousands of dollars that allegedly went missing.

“The letter opened the door for the civic board to bring more information to the community,” Pesek said in an interview the day after the meeting.

The board read a response back to the letter and then finally spoke about what members have been enduring the last few months. Peter Lavrenchik, a legal advisor who spoke on Schmidt’s behalf, said the former president and the board were exploring a potential settlement.

Pesek said the settlement offer was for $15,000 — $5,000 less than the money originally demanded late last year — and also included a controversial confidentiality clause that would forbid the board from speaking of the matter. There was also a nondisclosure clause that would forbid it from letting the community know where the money came from, and an agreement that Schmidt would not be prosecuted, the civic board said.

“It was an offer, but we couldn’t get past the confidentiality agreement,” Treasurer Felicia Chillak said.

Calling on legal advice, members of the board said they would not sign onto any settlement agreements for the time being. The response elicited a rousing response from members of the Poquott community.

“We never presented [the offer to the public] because in the beginning, we couldn’t get the confidentiality clause off the table,” Pesek said. “If we could have gotten rid of the confidentiality clause, we would have brought it to the table.”

Pesek said the board repeatedly told Lavrenchik that it would not sign a confidentiality clause, and he said there would be no offer without it.

Calls to Schmidt and Lavrenchik were not returned. Both parties were invited to the civic’s meeting, Pesek said, but did not attend.

Any future offers or potential settlements would be brought before the civic, Pesek said.

As community members went back and fourth discussing the $15,000 settlement Thursday night, Schmidt’s mom, Beth Schmidt, spoke emotionally in defense of her son, whom she said was waiting outside in her car. The legal trouble has weighed heavily on her son, who has been losing weight as a result of the emotional stress, the mother said.

“My kid did not steal $20,000 or $23,000,” his mother shouted at the meeting last week. “You practically destroyed him. I’m watching my kid suffer. He is a nice kid and feels terrible.”

Also in attendance at the meeting was Schmidt’s girlfriend, Kaitlin Sisti, who came to Schmidt’s defense and said there was no way he could have stolen the money, as it was all used for community events.

As the meeting drew closer to its conclusion, some members of the civic argued that regardless of which party was at fault, it was in the community’s best interests to move beyond this legal trouble.

“It’s tearing the village to pieces,” resident Harry Berry said after last week’s contentious meeting. “In 34 years, I have never seen anything split the village like this.”