By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The Virginia State Police investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing in the management of finances at the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging is closer to the end than the beginning, the commonwealth's attorney for Warren County said Wednesday.
"We are narrowing the scope of the investigation into some areas that might lead to criminal charges," Brian Madden said.
Madden said he met with a state patrol investigator last week and talked for about half an hour about the status of the probe that originated last year with an investigation by the state Department for the Aging into SAAA's finances. The Department for the Aging turned the results of its investigation over to the state police
James A. Rothrock, the commissioner of the Department for the Aging, said at the time that state law requires agency heads to report cases of suspected fraud to the superintendent of state police and the auditor of public accounts.
State police have confirmed the SAAA has been under investigation but have had no other comment on what, if anything, they have found so far.
The agency and Helen Cockrell, its former executive director, have been locked in a lawsuit and counterclaim in Warren County Circuit Court over issues related to her dismissal in early September. A trial initially set for May 22 has been rescheduled for Oct. 30.
Cockrell has filed a suit asking for $20,000 in sick leave and accrued annual leave that she says went unpaid after her dismissal amid discoveries of financial irregularities at the agency during her tenure. Two other top managers at the agency were also dismissed in September.
The agency has been rocked with cash flow problems since then. Staff and managers have taken pay cuts, and the workforce decreased from 72 to slightly more than 50 as of late March.
The SAAA has filed a counter claim seeking $110,000 from Cockrell and accusing her of misconduct in spending the agency's money. The accusations include misusing agency credit card for personal expenses, embezzlement and fraud.
Madden said he asked the state patrol investigator to "verify certain issues before we decide, if we decide, to proceed criminally."
Madden declined to predict when the investigation will be completed but added: "It is closer to the end than the beginning.
"We want to make sure we have our i's dotted and our t's crossed before we proceed with anything," Madden said.