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Posted March 16, 2012 | comments 4 Comments

Audit of SAAA now complete

Chairman: Report sheds little light on question of criminal activity

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- An expensive audit of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging has been completed with no bombshells in its findings, the board chairman said Thursday.
The details of the audit won't be released publicly until the next board meeting, but John Hudson said it sheds little new light on the question of whether internal criminal behavior played a role in a financial crisis that hit the agency in September and has hobbled it since.

Hudson said he received the draft late last week. He distributed copies to other board members at a meeting Thursday.

"It's basically a regurgitation of where we are now, except it's in a formal report," he said of the audit.

The agency continues to await the outcome of an investigation by the Virginia State Police that is attempting to determine if anyone in the agency committed crimes in managing its finances.

The audit, by the Winchester firm of Yount, Hyde & Barbour, surfaced in a recent court filing by the agency in a lawsuit against its former executive director, Helen Cockrell.
Cockrell and the agency are suing each other over issues stemming from the financial crisis and her subsequent dismissal.

In an amended complaint filed in February, agency attorneys listed the cost of the audit at $45,000, part of a total of $110,000 in damages the agency is seeking from Cockrell.

Agency officials have blamed skyrocketing expenses from the audit and attorneys fees for the latest wave of financial trouble that forced managers and staff to take pay cuts this month.

Cockrell is suing the agency for $20,000 in sick leave and accrued annual leave that she contends went unpaid after she was dismissed.

A trial is set for May 22.

Hudson told the board members that the agency must give Yount, Hyde & Barbour a formal "management response" to the audit draft. The firm will incorporate the response in a final version of the audit to be presented at the next board meeting, he said.

In another matter, Hudson announced the agency is looking for a part-time finance director after interim director Lance Barron left for a new job in Pennsylvania about a month ago.

Barron's predecessor, Jim Shaffer, the agency's finance director, was dismissed along with Cockrell and Ann McIntyre, the director of development. Barron and Shaffer were full-time employees, but Hudson said he believed the the job could be handled part-time by the right person.

Someone with accounting expertise could deliver "what we need on a part-time basis and that saves us some resources," Hudson said.

4 Comments | Leave a comment

    Criminal???I just betcha' that if I had taken money from a business account and deposited it in my, or a family members account,I would be considered and tried as a criminal.Do not understand why this is not a criminal offense? I,in my humble opinion consider her a criminal of the worst kind.Is not stealing a crime?Did she steal?If money is missing,it went somewhere.If some ended in a personal account,where money was not owed,is not that stealing?When because of these actions,seniors were deprived of services,then stealing occured,BIG time!!I don't care how you slice it,if something is missing,very likely,someone took it.You can label it mismanagement...call it what it is!!!!!!!!!!!!and prosecute the person responsible.Let the seniors that were deprived because of these actions,have a modicum of satisification in the courts.Someone who acted like she cared so much for the seniors..cared NOT AT ALL!! I believe there should be punishment,if for nothing else,then for just not caring and taking a huge salary for doing so.The $100,000 + salary was the only thing important,and a few employees recognized this early on.A shame no one would listen when this was revealed..might have saved a lot of heartache for our seniors.Another case of the then,board members, and current, just there for the ride and not for the seniors.A shame of the worst kind.Enough said! Guess you know where I stand,and how I feel!!!!!!

    Martha-- I completely understand your strong feelings about this whole situation.

    The financial audit report is meant to clarify the financial situation of the agency. It would be inappropriate for the accounting firm to comment on whether possible criminal charges should be filed. The accountants are the "just" the "bean counters".

    The state police investigation,on the other hand, will be extremely crucial in determining if criminal charges can, and will, be filed.

    Those of us with good common sense who have been closely following this story have a pretty clear picture of where the money was diverted.

    We can only hope that the criminal investigation will be thorough and meticulous, and that anyone at SAAA who may have engaged in criminal activity is identified and charged appropriately.

    It's been my experience throughout my life that many people who rise to positions of power sometimes think they are smarter than those around them. Such persons become convinced that they can do nothing wrong, and even if they do,they believe everyone else around them is too stupid to notice, so they will get away with it.

    Such people are sometimes proven wrong.

    The criminal investigation is continuing. I would not be surprised if the criminal investigation report is not released until after the civil trial.

    The burden of proof in a civil case is much lower than that of a criminal case. If Ms. Cockrell is found liable in civil court for the expenses incurred to SAAA due to her actions, it will be much easier to charge her criminally.

    Usually, civil cases are initiated AFTER criminal charges are addressed in criminal courts, but Ms. Cockrell forced the issue by bringing a civil case against SAAA for unlawful firing! She apparently dropped that part of her lawsuit as more information came out, and it became clear she could not win that part of her lawsuit

    Remember what I said about people who rise to power thinking they are smarter than those around them??

    I do think Ms Cockrell will eventually be criminally charge. Then the plea-bargaining will begin.....

    "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" I believe this has happened in this case.I also believe what you said about her believing the people around her would be too stupid to realize what was going on.Sadly,for some of them closest to her, this may well have been true.I believe if they were too stupid to notice,they should not be in a position of ANY authority.If there is a plea bargain,which I am also sure will occur,I pray it will still demand that time be served.I think that is the only way our seniors will be able get the justice they deserve.I also hope that SAAA will see fit to fill the court room with seniors,so that she can see the faces of the ones she hurt.Will she still not care about them?Not a bit,but it will still be a gesture that will please the seniors.And, after all they are the only ones that count.Thanks ex,you are well schooled.May be why you are ex.Don't want anyone there too smart.You survive much better if you are not too bright.Than look at what happens.LOL.But it really is not funny,just very,very sad.

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