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Published: Tuesday, 6/5/2001

Trustee on probation for theft


George Fanning will finish out the last few months of his term as a Sylvania Township trustee on probation for stealing a toy from a Lenawee County antique mall.

Judge James Sheridan yesterday in Lenawee District Court sentenced Mr. Fanning, chairman of the trustees, to two years of probation, 120 hours of community service, and banned him from the Blissfield Antique Mall because of the April 3 incident.

Mr. Fanning, 65, told the court he “made a mistake” and it “would never happen again.” Thirty minutes later, Mr. Fanning, who said last week he will not seek re-election this fall, charged his $900 in court costs, restitution, and fines on a credit card.

The judge ordered Mr. Fanning, who leased space at the mall, not to set up shop at any antique mall or flea market for two years.

The mall's owner, Matt Koester, saw the theft on surveillance tape.

“He attempted to take the little train several times,” Mr. Koester said after the sentencing. “He would pick it up and look around,” but people were in the room.

“After an hour of lingering around the store, he had the opportunity and helped himself to the train. He lifted it and put it in his left pocket and walked out.”

Blissfield police later found the $1,250 item locked up in Mr. Fanning's truck.

Mr. Fanning, who spent the night in jail after his arrest, was freed after posting $200 bond.

Originally charged with a felony, he pleaded guilty to second-degree retail fraud, which is a misdemeanor.

His colleagues are split on whether he should resign. Trustee Dock Treece has said he thinks Mr. Fanning should resign. Trustee Dick Moses has mixed emotions.

Several township residents have attended recent trustees meetings, inquiring about Mr. Fanning's status. Sherry Specht, a resident who successfully sued trustees for violating open meetings laws, said Mr. Fanning should step down from his post.

“How can you expect us to trust you?” asked Ms. Specht, who attended the court hearing. “You've got to be ignorant, George.”

Mr. Fanning, who said he has seen a counselor, hasn't decided whether to resign.

“I'm not thinking about why I would or why I wouldn't,” Mr. Fanning said later. “They [his fellow Republicans] have told me that's up to me, and that's my decision. I haven't gotten anything from anybody.”

Mr. Fanning received a deferred sentence, meaning he can have the conviction taken off his record if he completes probation.

“I don't know why I did it,” he said. “I don't have a clue. I had the money.”

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