Photos Lead to Charges for County Employee

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By Stephanie Tyrpak

PERRY CO. -- A Perry County employee is in trouble with the law after investigators say he was caught on camera stealing gas.

Paul "Butch" Stern, 64, worked in the Perry County Assessor's office. He's now charged with felony theft.
 
The situation started earlier this year. Property taxes in Pinckneyville jumped, and angry residents started calling the Pinckneyville Press newspaper. They shared tips about what they thought was wrong with the County Assessor's office. 
 
The paper decided to check out one of those tips, soon capturing a scene that's now evidence in the case against Stern.
 
Pinckneyville Press Publisher, Jeff Egbert, was waiting with his camera Monday morning. He was watching for Stern, a veteran employee of the Perry County assessors office and it's only fieldman.
 
Stern drives a county vehicle into the Du Quoin Motomart around 9 a.m. and begins pumping gas. However, not all of the fuel flows into the car's tank. Photos appear to show Stern filling up containers in his trunk.
 
Those containers are then driven back to Stern's property in Sunfield.
 
By Tuesday afternoon, the series of pictures are part of a police investigation. On Thursday, Stern was officially charged.
 
You can view the charge here.
 
Court documents read that on July 14th, Stern knowingly exerted unauthorized control over government property by intending to deprive the county of gasoline worth up to $500.
 
Stern submitted his resignation at the county board meeting Thursday night. The letter apologizes "for any difficulty or unwanted attention that I have brought to the office of the Supervisor of Assessments."
     
Stern has turned himself into the Perry County Sheriff's Office and posted bond.
 
Perry County Assessor John Batteau says they're currently negotiating a new contract with county employees. That should hopefully be worked out in a couple weeks. Once that's complete, his office will start the hiring process to replace Stern.
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