A judge has sentenced Maricopa County's embattled school's superintendent to probation after tossing 25 felony counts related to the operation of a school for homeless children.
Sandra Dowling was sentenced Tuesday to four months and one week of probation for a minor misdemeanor.
It brings an end to a long-standing investigation launched by the sheriff's office.
Dowling was indicted in November 2006 on 25 felony counts related to the operation of the Thomas J. Pappas Schools for homeless children.
Authorities accused the school's chief of stealing $1.9 million in public money.
All of the charges were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought again.
Dowling's attorney says the case is what they've been saying all along.
"Nothing of the sheriff's investigation was ever proven. Nothing!," said her attorney, Craig Mehrens.
Dowling pleaded guilty to a Class 2 misdemeanor for hiring a relative, a count not included in the original indictment, because she had given a $5-an-hour job to her daughter during the summer of 1999.
Dowling said after court Tuesday she feels vindicated.
"The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the sheriff's office spent a lot of money, they spent a lot of time, they wasted a lot of taxpayers' time and most importantly, they destroyed the lives of thousands and thousands of homeless children and for that they can never be forgiven, ever," Dowling said.
The Board of Supervisors is suing Dowling to recover the money that they say she stole even though the $1.9 million theft charge was dismissed.
Supervisor Don Stapley said they're not done with Dowling despite Tuesday's decision.
"We are in the process of gearing up to prosecute," he said.
As for the lesser charge Dowling pleaded to, Stapley said, "Guilty is still guilty. Ask yourself: When was the last time you were on probation? It's a big deal."
Reacting to the end of the Dowling criminal case, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said his office did a professional investigation of Dowling with a lot of time put into it.
Dowling leaves office in December after deciding to retire rather than run for another term.