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    Fine closes case of fake high school certificate


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001

    LARGO -- A former Department of Children and Families counselor accused of giving a fake high school equivalency certificate to a client to help her find a job pleaded no contest on Tuesday to a misdemeanor.

    Edmund S. McNally was originally charged by Pinellas prosecutors with official misconduct, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

    But in a plea agreement on the day his trial was to begin, prosecutors reduced the charge to altering a public document, a misdemeanor. McNally pleaded no contest and was fined $225. A judge withheld a formal finding of guilt.

    McNally, 51, of Dunedin, through his attorney, declined to comment after his plea before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Dee Anna Farnell.

    "He's always denied that he was guilty," said attorney Robert Heyman. "This is purely a plea of convenience to get this behind him."

    McNally was accused of providing an unearned, falsified high school equivalency certificate to a mother he had dealt with as a DCF counselor. Heyman said the woman had a vendetta against McNally and concocted the allegation.

    Heyman said prosecutors could not prove the more serious felony charge. Prosecutor Patricia Cope did not return calls for comment. Her supervisors, prosecutor Fred Schaub and Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett, were unavailable Tuesday afternoon.

    McNally was fired as a DCF counselor last year because of his arrest and because DCF investigators said he falsified his employment application by saying he graduated from a university he attended but from which he did not earn a degree.

    McNally said he made a mistake on the application and did not intend to deceive his employer.

    Heyman said McNally now works to find workers for a temporary employment agency.

    "The response I got from his co-workers (at DCF) was unanimous," Heyman said. "He was considered hard-working, dedicated and honest to a fault."

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