A FORMER council worker who stole more than $17,000 from Ipswich ratepayers has escaped spending time in prison.
Gregory John Gadsby, 53 pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud after using a council corporate credit card to buy alcohol and food between April 2012 and November 2013.
Gadsby, who admitted to having a drinking problem and depression, resigned from his position as a sport and recreation technical officer for Ipswich City Council after an investigation started into one transaction worth more than $15,000 recorded as "line marking".
In a 12 month period Gadsby apparently bought $15,000 worth of alcohol, although no evidence was presented to the court to show that's how the cash was spent.
In the same period, he used the corporate credit card to pay for more than $1500 worth of food and drinks at the Ipswich Rugby League Club.
As Magistrate Virginia Sturgess handed down her sentence on Wednesday in Ipswich Magistrates Court, Gadsby was shaking while his family looked on.
However the sentence, which usually carries a minimum term of imprisonment, was reduced given he had made an early guilty plea, has no prior criminal history and had repaid the stolen money before his court appearance.
Mag. Sturgess said while repaying the money in full was a "significant factor" the crime was, among other things, a severe breach of ratepayers' trust.
"That's an incredible amount of money to take in the period you took it…," Mag Sturgess said.
"While I do take into account your history of depression and alcohol abuse; none of these things are factors that turn you into a dishonest person.
"They cannot excuse dishonesty."
Gadsby was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for each charge to be served concurrently, both wholly suspended.
"That's shorter than I otherwise would have made it, Mr Gadsby," Mag. Sturgess said.
"What that means is if you can keep out of trouble and not commit any offences punishable by imprisonment in the next 18 months you won't have to serve any time in jail."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.