Barbara Raper, 70, who worked at Wendell's town hall for 30 years, was booked into the Wake County Jail on embezzlement charges.
Raper is accused of stealing nearly $84,000 from the town. The assistant district attorney handling the case said much more than that probably was taken, but the amount is what investigators believe they can prove.
"It's sad. This lady put tons and tons of time, pretty much her life, into the city," said Wendell resident Faye Friedrick.
The town first realized in November 2005 that money was missing. Leaders said they noticed it was gone during an annual audit. At that point, Raper was put on administrative leave. She resigned from her position shortly afterward.
According to a November 2005 news release from the town of Wendell, the audit determined nearly $277,000 was misappropriated over a period of years. The district attorney said that Raper could be tied to about $84,000 taken since January 2000.
Neighbors said Raper wasn't living a lavish lifestyle. Authorities said they aren't sure why Raper was taking the money. And in a town where many people feel like they know each other, residents can't explain it either.
"I can't imagine what could be going on in a small town like Wendell that would put you in a financial bind that you would do a thing like this," said Friedrick.
Raper was released from jail Wednesday afternoon. Her attorney was unavailable for comment.
The only comment from Wendell's mayor and town manager was that Raper's arrest would be discussed at their next meeting Sept. 11. They would not say whether the town has recouped any of the money. A new finance director was hired in April.
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