Before he sentenced Pamela Tamms-Klett, Judge Philip Kirk told her to discuss her crime with a reporter.
Tamms-Klett appeared before Kirk Friday, June 15, after pleading no contest in April to a misdemeanor theft charge.
The former manager of the New London branch of Bank Mutual, she was accused of stealing more than $82,000 through nearly 200 fraudulent transactions from 2004 until December 2007 when she was fired.
Initially charged with felony theft, the charge was amended to a misdemeanor after Tamms-Klett paid $62,400 in restitution, an amount agreed upon by the bank.
During Friday’s hearing, Kirk noted that the pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) had recommended that Tamms-Klett not be placed on probation and be ordered to serve 250 hours of community service within six months.
“It’s not even a valid legal sentence in this state,” Kirk said, regarding the PSI’s recommendation.
Tom Johnson, Tamms-Klett’s attorney, suggested the PSI’s recommendation that she not be placed on probation may be a typo.
However, Kirk said it was clearly not a typo and suggested that Department of Corrections simply did not see any need to monitor Tamms-Klett.
Kirk said Tamms-Klett had already taken all the steps that would have been required under probation, leaving the state’s justice system with few options.
Describing Wisconsin’s sentencing laws as “pathetic, dumb-ass and stupid,” Kirk said the law “perpetuates the charade that we are protecting society.”
“If they really had any logic, maybe they would have created a serial theft offender registry rather than a serial sex offender registry for teenagers,” Kirk said.
Kirk said sentencing was somewhat of an exercise in impotence.
“What difference does it make? I’m not going to rehabilitate you by putting you in jail,” Kirk said.
Kirk told Tamms-Klett that he wanted her to discuss her crime with a reporter as a final effort at rehabilitation.
“I think that’s about the best deterrence,” Kirk said. He ordered the court into recess until after Tamms-Klett spoke with the County Post.
Tamms-Klett had worked at Bank Mutual for 17 years and was active in the community, serving on New London’s Economic Development Committee and in Rotary. She remained active – even after the bank terminated her employment and she had been questioned by police – until the first article regarding her crime appeared in the County Post.
Over a period of about four years, Tamms-Klett manipulated ledgers, cut checks to herself and deposited checks through automatic teller machines.
She told the County Post that she stole the money from the bank because she wanted to support her family, pay her bills and pay for her children’s education.
During the criminal investigation, Tamms-Klett told police in a handwritten statement, “I would review the annual stock report for Bank Mutual and see the CEO’s bonus for the quarter was more than most of the tellers annual salary. I asked to have fees returned for college students that have been overdrawn and was told that could not happen although one of Bank Mutual’s board members received $5,000 for attending a one-day board meeting. Any time I manipulated a transaction, somehow internally I kinda felt like I was owed the money.”
Tamms-Klett still lives in New London, but she says the experience has changed her life and her relationships with friends and family forever. She said she was remorseful for what she did and for how it has embarrassed her family.
When court re-adjourned, Kirk told Tamms-Klett, “If you were facing a felony here, I would toss you in the slammer for awhile.”
Instead of a jail sentence, Kirk ordered Tamms-Klett to pay a $5,000 fine plus court costs. He ordered her to pay $1,000 within 60 days or face jail time. She will be required to pay the remainder at $250 per month.
“I think the imposition of financial penalties is not only a deterrent but a pallative to the system,” Kirk said, describing the fine and court costs as a user fee. “The public can’t expect to have everybody incarcerated just because it makes them feel good.”