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February 23, 2013

Probe continues into Ridgeley mayor’s alleged misuse of purchase card

RIDGELEY, W.Va. — Mineral County Prosecuting Attorney Jay Courrier is waiting for the sheriff’s department to finish its investigation into Mayor Jim Twigg’s alleged misuse of a government-issued credit card before he decides whether to move forward with criminal prosecution.

Courrier said Friday that he received an audit report that provided minimal information and he hopes to have a decision before the grand jury meets in May. If he feels the issue is a felony, Courrier has the option of taking it before the grand jury, which would then determine if there is probable cause for an indictment or could issue a non true bill, according to Twigg’s attorney, “Kin” Floyd McKinley Sayre of the firm Bowles Rice in Martinsburg. Courrier can also ask make a determination that civil restitution be made.

“Nowhere in that audit does it say that somebody has committed a crime,” said Sayre during a January council meeting. “It says there is potential based on what they found. Based on what’s been said and what’s been reviewed, there is no criminal violation there.”   

Sgt. C.E. Leatherman, who is investigating the matter, is waiting on additional information from the state auditor, according to Sheriff Jeremy Taylor.  

The state audit found potential malfeasance, according to a letter dated Jan. 24 written by Stuart Stickel, a certified public accountant and deputy state auditor of the chief inspector division.

“We are apprising your office of this potential malfeasance in order that criminal prosecution and/or civil action may be instituted if deemed appropriate,” Stickel wrote in the letter. “Please advise this office within 60 days of the results of your inquiries and the legal actions you have taken, or propose to take, to remedy these circumstances.”   

The audit lists eight charges for $415.81 to Twigg’s card, known as a “P-Card,” for which he previously reimbursed the town. Sayre said that those charges where used during travel on behalf of the town.

P-Cards are used to make payments for goods, services and travel and are governed by state code. Personal charges and food expenses are prohibited. The card cannot be used to obtain cash, cash credits or cash advances.

Finance Commissioner Tom Hedrick said during the January council meeting that a per diem rule for food was made after April and prior to that the cards were used for food.  

“We did go to per diem in April to cut off the food expenses on the purchase card,” said Hedrick.

The audit also noted 56 charges made on two Ridgeley P-card holder’s accounts totaling $2,916.07 were not adequately documented and, “the validity and purpose of the charges could not be determined.”  

Any person who violates the West Virginia state code regarding fraud, misuse and abuse of the P-Card is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than one nor more than five years, or fined no more than $5,000, or both fined and imprisoned, according to the code.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

 

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