Settling out of court might not be the most lucrative approach to getting back stolen funds, but in the long run it may be the best. Officials of Local 2533 of the International Association of Fire Fighters are hoping so. Early this month, the Branford (near New Haven), Connecticut union and State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced they had reached an agreement with former local president Michael Manemeit to recover around $38,000 in funds Manemeit had stolen years earlier. “We’re happy to have some closure on the case,” said Randall Chittenden, a former union president and currently a local trustee.
State prosecutors initially had charged Manemeit, now retired from the Branford Fire Department, with theft of about $24,000 worth of union funds mainly through unauthorized cash withdrawals. Upon further review, the attorney general’s office raised the estimate to $38,000. While taking the case to court might have generated treble damage payments, union officials are satisfied. “It would probably cost us more money to try to get every dime back,” Chittenden remarked. Under the agreement, Manemeit, who already has paid back $2,000, must pay another $2,000 within 15 days of the court judgment, and $300 every month thereafter until the debt is paid. Meanwhile, the union has instituted safeguards to ensure similar thefts don’t happen again.