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Former Safety Harbor finance director leaves Pinellas County Jail early

SAFETY HARBOR — JoAnne Ryan, who was finance director when hundreds of thousands of dollars vanished from city bank accounts, was released from jail early Saturday, two months before the end of her sentence.

At 6:08 a.m. Saturday, Ryan walked out of the Pinellas County Jail for the first time since her Sept. 21 sentencing, authorities said.

"Her attorney got a court order from a judge giving her gain time for good behavior," Pinellas County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Tom Nestor said. "So that's why she was out two months early."

It was two years ago this August that city manager Matt Spoor discovered Ryan ran up thousands of dollars in personal charges on a city credit card and fired her. She was arrested weeks later and charged with grand theft, a third-degree felony.

Prosecutors upgraded that to a second-degree felony after forensic auditors hired by the city found that more than $215,000 disappeared in the last year of Ryan's tenure. The charge carried a maximum sentence of 15 years, but Ryan and prosecutors agreed on a deal that allowed her to plead guilty to one count of second-degree grand theft and serve no more than two years in prison.

She got one year in the Pinellas County Jail, and six months of that time was to be spent on work release.

Circuit Judge Thane Covert also gave Ryan 15 years of probation and ordered her to pay $128,000 in restitution. She'd paid back about $58,000 of that before Covert issued his ruling. Mayor Andy Steingold said Safety Harbor has not received any additional money.

"We haven't been paid as previously promised at sentencing," he said. "I suspect that during the next 10 years we'll receive some restitution."

Ryan began the second phase of her sentence at 9:20 a.m. Monday, spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said. She will work as an independent distributor for Market America, a product brokerage and Internet marketing company that specializes in one-to-one marketing.

While she is on work release, Ryan must wear a GPS monitoring device. "They do periodic home visits as well," Nestor said.

Ryan's last address was in Safety Harbor, but in paperwork she indicated that she would be living in Palm Harbor.

Neither Ryan nor her attorney, Ronnie Crider, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Former Safety Harbor finance director leaves Pinellas County Jail early 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 7:49pm]
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