State Po­lice de­liver report of pos­si­ble ‘em­bez­zle­ment’

Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Goff weighs any ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty Hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

After a six-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion into charges of mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of funds by Rap­pa­han­nock county of­fi­cials, Vir­ginia State Po­lice Spe­cial Agent W.W. Tal­bert has de­liv­ered his report to Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Art Goff.

In a phone call last Fri­day, Tal­bert de­clined to pro­vide de­tails about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I can’t give out in­for­ma­tion on an open in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said. “It won’t be closed un­til there's ei­ther a de­nial to pros­e­cute or charges dropped.”

When asked to clar­ify if that state­ment meant he had dis­cov­ered crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, Tal­bert replied: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I ac­tu­ally found a crim­i­nal of­fense.”

He in­di­cated that a find­ing of crim­i­nal­ity would be up to Goff.

In a writ­ten state­ment in May, VSP spokesper­son Corinne Geller said, “[Re­leas­ing the report] would be left up to the com­mon­wealth’s at­tor­ney to de­cide — if he/she wants to re­lease a state­ment or in­ves­tiga­tive sum­mary.”

Goff con­firmed in an email Tues­day that he has re­ceived the State Po­lice find­ings. He had no fur­ther com­ment for the record.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was touched off by a let­ter from Rap­pa­han­nock County Trea­surer Deb­bie Knick to the county’s Board of Su­per­vi­sors in February of this year. In the let­ter, Knick ac­cused her own county gov­ern­ment of mis­man­age­ment, in­clud­ing fail­ure to fol­low proper ex­pense and pay­roll pro­ce­dures, and lack of over­sight of bud­get­ing and spend­ing.

In par­tic­u­lar, Knick sharply crit­i­cized then-Rap­pa­han­nock County

Ad­min­is­tra­tor Deb­bie Keyser, who had been in her post al­most eight months, for the “amount of mis­takes and the ap­par­ent lack of over­sight and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion” when con­duct­ing of­fi­cial busi­ness.

She also cited cases of “over­pay­ment” of county funds, in­clud­ing an in­stance in­volv­ing for­mer Rap­pa­han­nock County Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Peter Luke and his suc­ces­sor Art Goff.

In ad­di­tion, Knick called out what might best be de­scribed as sloppy over­sight by the ad­min­is­tra­tor’s of­fice of county credit card pur­chases by em­ploy­ees.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan this past March and ex­am­ined spend­ing and pro­cure­ment ac­tiv­i­ties be­gin­ning in 2016. Every­one con­nected with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­clined to name names of pos­si­ble em­ploy­ees be­ing tar­geted.

In a phone call in August, Sgt. David Ost­win­kle of the State Po­lice Bureau of Le­gal Af­fairs de­scribed the gen­eral ac­tiv­ity re­ported as “a mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic funds” and char­ac­ter­ized po­ten­tial dam­ages or in­juries as “cur­rency em­bez­zle­ment.”

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