Former school nurse pleads guilty to tampering

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Monday, February 10, 2014 10:33pm
  • News

A former Soldotna school nurse pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with public records Monday afternoon at the Kenai Courthouse after allegations that she forged a signature on school immunization records.

Donna Cotman, 65, a retired school nurse from Redoubt Elementary School, entered a guilty plea of tampering with public records, a Class A misdemeanor. Defense attorney Peter Ehrhardt and State District Attorney Helen Hickman came to an agreement to drop four counts of second-degree forgery, a Class C felony, for the change of plea. Kenai District Court Judge Dan Ogg sentenced Cotman to 80 hours of community service, a fine of $1,500 and no jail time.

According to a Soldotna Police affidavit, a parent contacted Sgt. Duane Kant on April 17, 2013 about a forged signature on his child’s immunization exemption form. A police investigation involving the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District found that Cotman forged a parent signature on four forms between January 2012 to February 2012.

All students in Alaska schools are required to “be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and Hepatitis A and B, unless exempt for medical or religious reasons,” according to Alaska statute.

In the affidavit, Aaron Parker said someone forged his wife’s signature on the form, which indicated his daughter was missing her Hepatitis A and B shot and a religious exemption was signed. In the police report, Parker’s wife, Susan Ellison Parker, said it was not her signature on the form and that her child did receive both vaccinations in 2012.

Sgt. Kant interviewed Cotman and discovered the nurse destroyed the original immunization document for Parker. Police obtained a search warrant and reviewed 26 student immunization forms. According to the affidavit, Cotman forged signatures on four documents.

Cotman’s attorney Ehrhardt said Cotman, who served as a school district employee since 1975 until she agreed to retire, said the record at issue did not result in any injury or financial gain.

Cotman declined to comment in court and refused an interview with the Clarion.

Hickman said tampering seemed to be more accurate charge as opposed to forgery, she said.

Ehrhardt said Cotman filled the school forms out after the childrens’ parents failed to do so in time. Otherwise, the school district says they have not been properly immunized.

“I would guess that 99.9 percent of all school district nurses in the state have done this,” he said. “The prosecution of this is stupid because it makes it more difficult for the school district to manage kids.”

Judge Ogg said the court would suspend imposition of sentence if Cotman pays her fine within 30 days and completes 80 hours of community service by August. She remains on probation for one year.

Ehrhardt said Cotman being forced to early retirement is consequence enough.

“It’s really unfortunate because the reality was she was trying to help people,” he said.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

From left, Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, east side setnetter Ken Coleman and Konrad Jackson present information about a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for east side setnet fishery permits during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Senate committee hears setnet buyback bill

The East Side of Cook Inlet Set Net Fleet Reduction Act is sponsored by Nikiski Sen. Jesse Bjorkman

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, presides over a mostly empty House chamber at the end of an hourslong recess over education legislation on Monday in Juneau (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tie vote kills early House debate on education funding

Lawmakers went into an hourslong recess that ended with adjournment until Tuesday morning

Mock-up illustration of in-development Kahtnu Area Transit Bus (Image courtesy Kenaitze Indian Tribe)
Kenaitze purchase Kenai’s former Kendall Ford building for transportation hub

Hetl Qenq’a will also serve as a hub for the upcoming Kahtnu Area Transit, a fixed route public bus service

Peninsula Clarion government and education reporter Ashlyn O’Hara stands in the hallways of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau on Monday. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clarion reporter working in Juneau for legislative exchange

Reporter Ashlyn O’Hara will be covering statewide issues with a local lens

Voters fill out their ballots at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman leads local campaign finance pack, reports show

The reports, due Feb. 15 for candidates running for state office in 2024, offer a glimpse at the position from which candidates will start this election year

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Caitlin Babcock addresses students during Luke Herman’s government class at Soldotna High School on Feb. 8 in Soldotna.
Amid education funding shortfalls, local students advocate for support

‘This state will lose us and generations of students after’

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney, center, and representatives of Aspen Creek Senior Living celebrate a ribbon-cutting during a grand opening event at Aspen Creek Senior Living in Soldotna, Feb. 9.
Aspen Creek celebrates expansion, readies to widen its community

The facility is in one of the areas described in the city’s Soldotna Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Plan

Department of Health logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula resident dies of Alaskapox, 1st documented fatal case

Seven total infections of Alaskapox have been reported to the State’s Section of Epidemiology

In this image provided by the Cooper Landing Emergency Services, emergency personnel respond to reports of an avalanche on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Cooper Landing, Alaska. One backcountry skier died and two others were injured in an avalanche on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, as warm weather raises the risk for such events in the state. (Clay Adam/Cooper Landing Emergency Services via AP)
Anchorage man killed in Kenai Peninsula avalanche

The avalanche swept away three backcountry skiers

Most Read