Theft charges were dropped Wednesday against a former Barrington High School administrator accused of stealing funds from the school's fine arts department.
But Julie Rachel Salk paid just over $5,000 in restitution to Barrington Unit District 220, claiming she was "ultimately responsible" for the missing funds, defense attorney Doug Roberts said.
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"She was the head of the department and arguably she was responsible for cash receipts," Roberts said after the hearing in front of Lake County Judge Raymond D. Collins. "If that money was missing, then ultimately she accepts responsibility for it missing."
Salk did not comment after leaving court.
She was charged with theft over $500 and theft of government property in November after she was accused of stealing approximately $5,022 in theater and raffle ticket revenue from a March 2012 performance of "Hello Dolly" at the school.
Salk, 50, of Barrington, turned herself in to police after charges were filed and an arrest warrant issued. She has remained free after posting $1,000, or 10 percent of her $10,000 bail.
According to prosecutors, Salk was in charge of administering the fine arts department's program and event expenses, including the performance in March.
A fellow District 220 employee alerted school officials to suspicious financial management practices by Salk in April 2012, and the district conducted a forensic audit.
Salk was placed on administrative leave l after the investigation started. She retired in early June, just before the end of the school year.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said charges were dropped because "due to the nature of the theft, we would have had difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt" Salk was guilty.
"We are pleased the defendant chose to pay the missing funds," Fisz added.
Barrington Unit District 220 Superintendent Tom Leonard issued a statement after Wednesday's court hearing.
"The judgment to dismiss this case appropriately belongs to the State's Attorney's Office and not the school district," Leonard wrote. "We respect the expertise and the role properly entrusted to the State's Attorney's office in these decisions. The school district also acknowledges the hard work and support of the Barrington Police Department during this matter."
But Leonard's statement also suggested the matter may not be entirely closed as far as the school district is concerned.
"Although the State's Attorney's Office has dismissed all charges in this case, the ruling does not preclude Barrington 220 from considering all its legal options," he wrote.
More than a half dozen people had access to the school funds on a daily basis, Roberts said, and anyone else could have taken money from the production.
"There were no accounting procedures at the school to protect the funds," he said. "But, as head of the department, (Salk) accepts responsibility for the missing money -- not that she took the funds, just that they are missing."
• Daily Herald staff writer Eric Peterson contributed to this story