IN February, Timothy Whittington stepped down as chief of the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department. Last week, he and his wife, Patricia, pleaded not guilty in Fayette Circuit Court to felony charges related to embezzlement and fraud.
A state audit found that $18,076 in expenditures were either unallowable, unauthorized or undocumented, the Register-Herald in Beckley reported.
While prosecutors handle the criminal matter - the Whittingtons are innocent until proven guilty - the VFD has made changes.
It now has a functioning board of directors made up of members of the community and three members of the VFD.
Embezzlement has become a major problem for nonprofits. Cases in the past year include:
• Andrea Kinder of Madison, who was charged with embezzling more than $105,000 from the Southern Public Service District.
• Ethel Andrews of Dunbar, who pleaded to embezzling nearly $25,000 from the Kanawha Valley Alumni Chapter of West Virginia State University and $33,000 from the Institute VFD.
• Deborah Starks of Cross Lanes, who pleaded guilty to embezzling $306,872 from Multifest.
• Meredith Ann Collier of Scott Depot, who pleaded guilty to embezzling $57,000 from HealthNet.
The money raised by these tax-exempt groups is supposed to go to a service for the community - and not to the sticky fingers of these who keep the books. Boards of directors need to keep careful watch on how every penny is spent.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster decided not to send Collier to prison because she has children. It may have been the compassionate thing to do, but what of the victims of these crimes?
HealthNet President Clinton Burley said the theft hurt the nonprofit's ability to get patients to hospitals.
Until people who commit embezzlement actually face consequences, everybody else will continue to face the effects of such crimes.
MOVE over, Jennifer Garner, and make room for Ripley native Lindsey Donohoe. The 29-year-old case manager for youth at the Division of Juvenile Services in Mason is about to become the state's next TV star.
Donohoe competed in the "Redneck Island" reality show. Before she could audition, she had to pass a written test.
"The questions were really easy, and I kept wondering how people could get it wrong," she told the Parkersburg News. "So I made an audition tape after doing a phone interview and a Skype interview with producers."