The Transylvania Times -


Staff Reports 

DA Won't Prosecute Transportation Funds Case

 

March 28, 2019



District Attorney Greg Newman’s office has “determined” funds were “unaccounted for” in the Transylvania County Transportation Department but “that the evidence did not meet the state’s responsibility of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to a joint statement from Newman’s office and the Board of Commissioners.

In 2016, according to the joint statement, Transylvania County Government “discovered fiscal irregularities in cash funds documented received and those deposited in the Transportation Department for an extended period.” The evidence of those irregularities and the names of individuals who had access were turned over to law enforcement for investigation. The criminal investigation involved the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and evidence was then reviewed by Newman to determine whether to prosecute.

On Monday during its regular meeting, the Board of Commissioners went into a closed session to “plan, conduct or hear reports concerning investigations of alleged criminal misconduct,” as allowed by state law.

Along with the commissioners, the county manager and county clerk, Newman and County Finance Director Jonathan Griffin attended the closed session. On Tuesday, the joint statement was released to the media.

Griffin initially found, while he was the interim county transportation director, evidence that led the county to believe there could be some criminal activity.

Last November, Newman said he believed there would be charges resulting from the investigation but was at the point of looking at what exactly his office was going to charge and whether it would go through District Court or Superior Court.

Newman also said the case would likely be reviewed by a grand jury and that “they will determine a course if charges are to come out of this.” When reached for comment Wednesday, Newman said his earlier comments were based on what he had been told was coming in the investigation.

“I had not had the benefit of looking at everything at that point,” he said. “When I finally dug in to the meat of it and the specifics, there are unaccounted for monies, but I think it’s more a result, truthfully, of just basic mishandling of the money. They were too relaxed, maybe, or too cavalier, with the handling of deposits that came in. Sometimes, the deposits would be held for days or weeks before a deposit was made, so I don’t think what we ended up with was an actual crime, but paperwork and deposits not being diligently watched and records being kept properly. What we are left with is, I think, the county has properly and appropriately looked at and how to be more diligent, and we don’t have probable cause to charge anyone. Probable cause is what you need to go to a grand jury, so when I finally broke it down and saw what had happened, along with the SBI’s comprehensive invest-igation, and the FBI conducted a forensic accounting investigation, I found no probable cause. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to charge or take before a grand jury.

“What I initially had been led to believe would have resulted in some crimes and maybe multiple people charged. That’s not how it has unfolded. So, I had that discussion with the county, and certainly once I read everything, it was clear that this was the right decision to be made. It’s simply a case of mismanagement of money.”

Transylvania County implemented new cash handling procedures and accountability measures in 2016 to prevent future issues and conducted a comprehensive review of all internal cash procedures to make them stronger and prevent the potential for mishandling of public funds, according to the joint statement. County auditors tested the new protocols and were satisfied that the new internal control measures were successful, the statement read.

More from the Board of Commissioners’ meeting will appear in Monday’s edition.

 
 

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