Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 25, 2013

Piedmont officials remain at odds over FEMA trailers

Council members spar over payment of employee’s legal fees

PIEDMONT, W.Va. — Contention between council members over the payment of legal fees involving fraud allegations against a town employee arose again Wednesday at Piedmont’s Council meeting.

Last year, council voted to pay the legal fees for Town Clerk Betsy Rice. The allegations revolved around six Federal Emergency Management trailers. Piedmont Mayor Lester “Skip” Clifford said the allegations can’t be discussed because the matter remains under investigation.

“I want to talk about the money. The money is public,” said Ray Hall. “What we are not allowed to discuss is ongoing litigation or detail of the litigation. We are obligated to tell people how much we are spending on this.”

Hall asked how much was paid to a third-party attorney for legal fees. Rice said the amount was listed on the town’s financial statements, which are provided to the council.

“My point is, that every agency in the state, including the Ethics Commission, has listed the city of Piedmont as an injured party and we shouldn’t have had to spend a penny on any of this stuff,” said Hall.

“We wouldn’t have had to spend a penny if you hadn’t started the investigation,” Clifford told Hall.  

Hall provided West Virginia State Police with a tape of an executive session where the FEMA trailers were discussed.

Rice requested that Hall provide her with a written request for the legal fee amounts.

“You give me a written request with exactly what you want,” she said.

Town Foreman John Shingler was indicted by a grand jury on six felony counts of embezzlement of government property and one felony count of making a false statement in regard to the FEMA trailers. His trial, which has been postponed multiple times, is scheduled for May 21.

At a previous meeting the council, with the exception of Councilman Robert Patenaude, voiced their support for Shingler.

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

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