A former executive for the School Nutrition Association of Iowa has a week to decide whether she wants to take back her guilty plea to stealing money from the organization, a judge said Thursday.
Norma Jean Adams, 74, originally was set to be sentenced in Scott County District Court on one count of commission of specified unlawful activity, a Class B felony that carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
Judge Mark Cleve, however, said he was not willing to accept the plea agreement she struck with prosecutors given the nature of the circumstances, the amount of money taken, and because she has two prior felony theft convictions.
Specifically, the judge took issue with the prosecutors' statement in the agreement that they would not resist supervised probation “if deemed appropriate by the 7th Judicial Department of Correction.”
That was contingent on Adams’ paying $100,000 in restitution prior to sentencing.
The plea agreement also stated that the plea was open and that prosecutors could make any recommendation at sentencing.
The judge's concurrence of the plea agreement also was a condition and Judge Joel Barrows, who presided over Adams' plea hearing in September, deferred the decision to accept or reject the agreement until the court received a presentence investigation.
Cleve on Thursday said his rejection of the plea agreement means that Adams has the right to take back her guilty plea and set the case for trial.
Her attorney, David Treimer, asked for time to talk to Adams about the consequences of withdrawing her plea or sticking with it.
Cleve gave Adams until Dec. 8 to make that decision.
Under the name of Norma LaMantia, Adams was the executive director of the statewide School Nutrition Association until she resigned June 30, 2016, after members of the association’s board discovered irregularities in her financial transactions for the organization.
According to a report filed June 1 by Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman, from Jan. 1, 2010, through July 31, 2016, an audit discovered $166,895.25 that was submitted to Norma Jean LaMantia but never made it into the association's account.
The checks — which came from dozens of school districts and food companies to pay fees for association events — were diverted for Adams' personal expenses and to support her addiction to casino gambling, the report said.
Adams admitted to taking the money in an interview with auditors and a Davenport police detective, saying she had blown through her personal funds "and then I took some money from the association," according to the report.
At one point, she said she felt "so guilty" about what she had done in 2014 that she paid back $10,650 but hid the reason for the repayment on financial documents, the report said.
She was arrested June 28 and was released from the Scott County Jail after posting $1,000 cash bond.