Linda E. Duffy, a former library worker who initially pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing more than $800,000 from the Saugus Public Library, will change her plea during a hearing next month in US District Court, her lawyer said.
Duffy, 65, charged with 15 counts of money-laundering, mail fraud, and identity theft, was due back in court Friday, but the hearing was postponed at Duffy’s request, said Frederick J. Riley .
“She’s dealing with a personal matter,” said Riley, a Saugus lawyer. “But she will be changing her plea to guilty. . . . We are working on a plea agreement.”
Riley declined to comment further or to make Duffy available for an interview.
The plea change is proposed as the Saugus library strives to regain its financial footing by juggling staff to deal with new budget cuts, and reviving a friends’ group to raise money.
‘We’re very busy and we love that,” said Diane Wallace, the library director appointed in June 2011. “But we just don’t have enough staff.”
Duffy’s decision to change her plea, and the court’s decision to postpone the hearing, have angered one loyal Saugus donor.
“I think it’s horrible that she’s been out all this time and now they’re delaying this,” said Dorothy Amsden, 91, a General Electric retiree. “I knew as soon as it got down to the nitty-gritty, she’d plead guilty so that she wouldn’t have to reveal everything that went on.”
From 2004 to 2011, Duffy is alleged to have diverted fees for overdue books and videos, and charitable donations, including more than $450,000 from the General Electric Foundation, into an account she controlled at Eastern Bank. According to court documents, she used the money to pay the mortgage on her Saugus home and for dental bills, car repairs, jewelry, hotel stays, and other personal expenses.
The GE Foundation — which provided matching grants to funds donated to the library by GE retirees — was the largest single victim in the alleged theft. Rich Gorham, a spokesman for GE in Lynn, declined to comment on Duffy’s plea change, citing the company’s policy of not discussing legal matters.
Duffy was indicted last December, and pleaded not guilty to the charges during her arraignment in federal court. She has since been free on a $100,000 unsecured bond.
The alleged library theft is the second time Duffy has been charged with financial wrongdoing.
In 1993, while employed at a Boston insurance company, Duffy pleaded guilty to check fraud charges, totaling $120,000, and served 21 months in federal prison, according to the US attorney’s office.
In Saugus, Duffy was hired as a part-time library associate in 1999, and eventually was promoted to a full-time assistant to the library director. She resigned in June 2011 after the town began to investigate reports of possible theft of library funds.
A lack of funds forced the library to close temporarily in 2007, prompting the state library commission to strip it of its certification.
The library now is facing new financial constraints. The budget was reduced from $506,000 last year to $370,000 for the fiscal year that started on July 1. The budget cut led to two staff layoffs, jobs remaining unfilled, and a reduction of hours, Wallace said.
The library trustees are to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday to consider a new operating schedule. None of the three trustees — chairman Paul Allan and members Gail Murray and Matthew Canterbury — returned calls from the Globe seeking comment.
Prior to the summer, the library was open 53 hours per week, with a staff of 14. Now the staff has been reduced to 10, including seven part-timers. The library must be open a minimum of 47 hours to maintain state certification, according to Wallace.
“We’ll be able to make it, but we won’t be open as much as we have been,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult, because we just don’t have the staff.”
Despite hard times, the library still enjoys public support. The friends’ group — which disbanded in the wake of the alleged theft — is starting up again. A first meeting drew 38 people interested in getting involved. Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
“Friends’ groups are really special for libraries,” said Wallace. “They buy us everything from paper clips and toner to museum passes, and refreshments for programs. They provide the extras we can’t afford in our budget. We could use their help.”