By Aurora Ellison
Almost a year after an arson fire destroyed the city hall in Mill City, Linn County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Joy Cronin, 47, of Gates, the city’s former financial clerk in connection with the fire.
Cronin, who is out-on-bail, is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Oct. 3 at the Linn County Courthouse.
A grand jury indicted Cronin on three counts of first-degree arson, which gave the police authority to make the arrest.
The Linn County Sheriff’s office release said the investigation was lengthy “due to the complexity of the case and the number of agencies involved,” which included Oregon State Police fire marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Cronin was injured in the fire and treated at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital in Portland.
Originally, Cronin said she stopped by after-hours to turn off a light.
According to a press release from the Linn County Sheriff’s office, “The investigation revealed that Cronin is suspected of misuse of city funds and started the fire to destroy the evidence. Additional charges that are fiduciary in nature may be pending.”
Linn County’s district attorney will decide whether and when to add financial charges; Mill City officials are not involved in the investigation.
City Recorder Stacie Cook said the city staff was not aware of any financial issues before the fire.
Cronin’s employment with Mill City ended earlier this year. Cook said Cronin was “unable to return to work” because of “circumstances and injuries,” but did not specify whether Cronin quit or the city terminated her employment.
Prosecuting Attorney Reed Dinsmore of Linn County couldn’t comment on the investigation, but he said at the next hearing the defendant will enter her plea and it will be decided whether the case will go to trial.
Mill City’s City Hall has been at a temporary location since the fire. Insurance paid for a new, larger facility on First Avenue. The city has come up short, however, on paying for landscaping and up-to-code curbs and parking, and is looking into additional funding from foundations and donors.
Cook said she has remained focused on city business rather than becoming preoccupied with the investigation. “[We’re] just trying to get through this,” Cook said.