Beth Nicole Kulow, 35, of Creston appeared for a sentencing hearing 9:30 a.m. today at the Union County Courthouse.
Kulow, the former dean of student services at Southwestern Community College, pleaded guilty April 5 to one count of falsification of a public document and one count of theft in the second-degree (both Class D felonies). For those two counts, Kulow received a deferred judgment, three years probation, and was ordered to pay restitution of $6467.76 to Southwestern Community College for the cost of the audit not covered by insurance and court fees and civil penalties of $1,925.
In her statement to Judge Michael Jacobsen, Kulow related her desire to rebuild the trust of the community and continue to serve it. She stated she has learned humility and that these actions did not represent her true character. Kulow spoke of a fatal accident she was involved in in 2013, which she said impaired her ability to make decisions.
Sean Patrick Spellman, Kulow's attorney, said Kulow "put herself in a dangerous spot where she didn't have time to make good decisions."
In addition to the deferred judgment, Jacobsen ordered Kulow to continue mental health therapy and counseling and prohibited her from being involved in financial matters and receiving of monies for any community-related services or functions she might engage in.
Jacobsen considered several factors in his decision to grant Kulow a deferred judgment, including her age, lack of criminal history, the maximum opportunity for Kulow's rehabilitation and the steps she has taken to redress the situation since being charged. Jacobsen also said he considered the position of trust Kulow held at the time of the offense, the fact that this was not a one time mistake, and that Kulow was not in need of money at the time of the offenses.
Jacobsen stated the court was taking a chance on Kulow in granting the deferred judgement.
December 4, 2018, Kulow was charged with falsifying documents and three counts of second degree theft. The three counts have since been included in a single count of second degree theft. According to Union County Court documents, the charges resulted from more than 40 instances between September 2015 and August 2018 involving the improper use of SWCC funds to pay for personal items, travel and wedding expenses.
Kulow resigned in October of 2018. In November of that year, she was named in an investigation into improper use of funds.
An audit by Denman & Company LLP, at the request of the SWCC administration, revealed while Kulow was employed as dean of student services at SWCC, she submitted an email to support authorization of payment for travel expenses for an event which college personnel subsequently determined had not occurred and authorized and approved payments for other travel, wedding expenses and personal items totalling $15,064.48. The audit also stated SWCC has been reimbursed for the expenditures.