Former Safety Harbor finance director JoAnne Ryan faces stiffer charge

Former Safety Harbor finance director JoAnne Ryan appears for a pretrial hearing Thursday at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Former Safety Harbor finance director JoAnne Ryan appears for a pretrial hearing Thursday at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has toughened the charge against former Safety Harbor finance director JoAnne Ryan from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony.

This means investigators believe Ryan could have pocketed up to $100,000 while she worked for the city preparing budgets and overseeing all of its bank accounts.

She has pleaded not guilty.

The state attorney filed the additional charges Wednesday, said Ronnie Crider, Ryan's lawyer. He asked a judge at a pretrial hearing Thursday if he could have "more time to review this."

It was granted, and the next pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 21.

Addressing rumors that as much as $250,000 could have been taken, Crider said, "A quarter of a million is way beyond the scope of anything I would anticipate."

Ryan, 49, originally was charged with grand theft and accused of making more than $15,000 in personal charges on the city's American Express and Visa cards since April 2007, most in connection with a basketball team on which her daughters played. She has paid back all but $4,629.27 of that.

Now Assistant State Attorney Gregory Groger says there are allegations cash was also stolen.

Ryan appeared in the courtroom Thursday. She declined to speak with a reporter.

She was hired by the city as a finance analyst in 1984 and eventually was named assistant finance director. She was promoted to finance director in 1992.

The city has filed an insurance claim with Public Risk Management of Florida for $100,000, the policy's maximum. City Manager Matt Spoor said he has been told to expect a check for the full amount "in the near future."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Former Safety Harbor finance director JoAnne Ryan faces stiffer charge 03/19/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 4:02pm]

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