Neal indicted

Brent Finnegan -- February 19th, 2008

It’s being reported on the DNR and republitarian.com: City Treasurer Becky Neal has been indicted by a grand jury “on 20 counts related to the investigation of the treasurer’s office.”

UPDATE: Eight of those are felony counts relating to misuse or misappropriation of public funds. WSVA reports, “If convicted, the felony counts carry a prison term of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $100,000. The remaining 12 misdemeanors upon conviction carry jail time of six months, a fine of up to $1,000 and removal from office.”

13 Responses to “Neal indicted”

  1. JGFitzgerald says:

    A little more detail here.

  2. finnegan says:

    From TV3:

    Rebecca Neal has been indicted by a grand jury on 20 counts, eight of which are fraud […]

    In 2005, there was a loss of $7,500 in the city treasurer’s office. The Auditor of Public Accounts found Neal and her office workers were not negligent. But Neal alleged the city attorney and the director of finance tried to find ways to change the police report so the city could get the money back from the state.

    Lester Seal, the director of finance denied he did anything inappropriate. According to the city treasurer, this would have been an easy problem to solve. But the actions by the city attorney have her making some strong accusations.

    Anyone remember this?

    On April 26th, 2007, republitarian wrote:

    According to numerous sources, the city manager Roger Baker, city attorney Earl Thumma, and finance director Lester Seal all are in, as we like to say on the farm, a big pile of doo-doo.

    I’m hearing they could face possible charges relating to wording on a police report concerning the theft from the City Treasure’s Office. The insurance company wouldn’t pay the 7,500k that went “missing” from the Treasurer’s Office so it appears that an attempt was made to change a police report in order to obtain the money.

    I have not seen the police report, but I am told it contains some very interesting information.

    Becky Neal was not on duty that day due to a surgery, and Cynthia Fitzwater, candidate for clerk of the court, was in charge in Becky’s absence. Two temps were working that day, and one of them named ”Scott”, is named repeatedly. All involved in the investigation think that this temp worker, “Scott” took the money. However, not enough evidence was there to press charges.

    The city’s deductible would have only been 1,250 dollars, even without the change in wording. Some in the media are thinking that this was an attempt to hurt Benny Neal’s campaign by making his wife look bad.

    It is interesting to note that Brenda Huffman’s uncle is Earl Thumma……

  3. Emmy says:

    This all sounds so very shady to me. I hope the truth comes out. I’ve personally witnessed the lengths a town will go to to bring an honest person down and I wouldn’t be shocked if that was happening here.

  4. finnegan says:

    Speaking of shady, TV3 just deleted a big part of that story.

  5. finnegan says:

    I’m hearing that the $7.5k may be a red herring. It might have absolutely nothing to do with these indictments.

    That deleted text from WHSV was also used in an earlier report.

    WHSV was playing connect the dots, and may have gotten it wrong.

  6. TM says:

    Total value associated with the felony misuse or misappropriate public funds charges: $91,524

    Total value associated with misdemeanor alter deposit charges: $13,700

  7. finnegan says:

    Thanks for setting the record straight, TM.

  8. TM says:

    Not saying I know it has nothing to do with that $7500, but no dollar amounts specified in the charges match that exactly.

  9. Dave Briggman says:

    Brent, if you’re going to have a picture such as the one depicted in “connect the dots”, can you at least make sure the picture doesn’t have any spelling errors like “loose turn”?

  10. Dave Briggman says:

    Sorry, Brent, I left my smiley off the last posting…it’s the sign of a new kinder, gentler me.

  11. Dave Briggman says:

    :-)

  12. Frank J Witt says:

    Dave or Myron, I have been trying to register…what’s wrong?

  13. finnegan says:

    I have to wonder if Mellott’s story in the DNR today was inspired by something Myron posted, then deleted on republitarian.com Feb 20.

    Here’s what Myron posted, then deleted:

    Transcript of Becky in front of City Council

    Earl said that he received a request from Lester Seal (Director of Finance) for the preparation of an ordinance allowing the charging of a bad check fee.

    Rodney entertained comments on this.

    George said, “How often does this happen?”

    Earl said, “According to the Finance Department it happens quite a bit.”

    George said REALLY

    Carolyn said, “It is like the water bills.”

    Earl, “Well the water department collects money, the treasurer’s department collects money, checks and according to Lester there are and maybe you want to get him to comment on this, but according to Lester there are a number of occasions where the checks are taken and then it comes back and then they have to re-credit, you know put the account back on and get re-billed to collect because the check bounced.”

    Carolyn said, “Like HEC?”

    Earl interrupted Carolyn by saying Becky is here, she might be able to tell you how often it happened.

    Becky said, “I am here this evening because I was not involved in bringing this ordinance this evening. It is my office that handles this process. Currently, there appears to be in looking back over records today, there appears to more of a problem with HCH payments, which are automatic drafts from a person account. Currently, I would say a generous estimate is we possibly receive 125 checks annually. It is not a huge problem that we have. The majority of the checks that are returned are for water bills. When that occurs, without a fee in place we immediately void the payment, which was applied to a person’s water account. If you attach a fee that would make that process impossible unless it is going to be a billing process that than water would have to put that additional $35.00 on. The county has chosen to put a fee on their, if you choose to put a fee on once that check is returned to my office, we would have to contact the person who wrote the bad check for whatever reason, inform them that we have the check, they would have to make the check good including the $35.00. Prior to my taking office in 1998 the process of the previous Treasurer was to do that. This basically allowed a person who wrote a bad check to float a check for up to two months. The payment was not removed from the water billing account. The process as you knows sometimes you call someone and they say they will be in following day. I will be in the following week, which turns into the next week and the next week. At some points we would have checks that were floating on the system for two months. That allows someone to get deeper into debt by having a larger water bill at that time, which they probably have not paid as well, and the water billing department is out that much more money. That is why I have been opposed to a fee – a return check fee. It also allows on returned checks for taxes again once the check is received in my office. On those we do contact the person, give them a week to comply to make that check good, if not the payment is voided. We have used administrative fees for other purposes, it is something the state allows, the debt set off process $25.00 is added onto the tax penalty and interest that is due. Delinquent personal property we currently have a $30.00 fee administrative fee attached to that. It is something that if this ordinance is adopted or you choose to do that I would recommend that of instead of the wording being “shall” it should be “may”. That would leave it up to the discretion of myself or the Director of Finance who actually does not handle this process. If it is a repeat offender than yes, possibly you would consider this, currently and I am saying annually we may have 125 checks returned. You are looking at revenue of $4,375 if everyone paid that fee. If all the checks were made good. The majority of the checks that come back, like I say all water bills are immediately charged back to the account. The water bill reflects no payment so then the process of the water department has in place continues. You are two months behind and we will disconnect you. Also, in effect in our current process when a check is returned prior in getting to my office is presented to the payer’s bank two times. So that person incurs a fee from their bank, which is usually about $35.00. So they have a $70.00 bank fee, we add an additional $35.00. A $20.00 check suddenly has $105.00 in check charges. That’s why if you choose to do this, I think may would be a kinder approach. We have some bad checks for $5.00. You are going to attach $105.00 to that person account. A person who bounced a check for $5.00 does not have $105.00 additional to pay for their $5.00 check. $70.00 is already in place.”

    Rodney asked, “How does HEC handle this, do they have a policy?”

    Becky said, “I believe they have a check charge. I have been at our banking institute, which is Sun Trust, I have been there when HEC has come in to pick up checks. The people are suppose to come and pick up and make good. The county has the same problem where it is suppose to come in and pick up their check. They do not. I did want to come before you this evening because this was a request, I gathering from the agenda item of the Director of Finance presented by the City Attorney. I was not consulted in this.”

    Rodney said, “But you are suggesting that we change the wording from “shall” to “may”.

    Becky said, “I would think that would be more acceptable.”

    Earl said, “I might add the ordinance not only talks about checks, it talks about drafts also.”

    ——————-

    Republitarian on 20 Feb 2008

    Thanks to kestrel9000 for emailing me the deleted post.

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