Theft charges

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Water clerks plead not guilty

By Victor Inge

The Times-Journal

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CAMDEN &045; Two former employees of the Wilcox County Water/Sewer Department indicted on theft charges both pled not guilty Tuesday in Wilcox County Circuit Court.

Sylvia Ross, chief clerk, and Towanda Taite were both indicted by a grand jury for allegedly &8220;exerting control&8221; over cash collected, specifically more than $11,000 auditors discovered missing during a surprise visit.

Both Ross and Taite are each charged with theft and use of public office for personal gain. They both entered pleas of not guilty before Judge Jack Meigs. Their case has been set for trial on June 25.

Taite and Ross were arrested and placed on $20,000 bond.

Auditors from the Alabama Department of Examiner’s of Public Accounts made a surprise visit and performed a cash count for the water/solid waste department on May 3, 2006. The audit revealed cash deposits were not made &8220;in a timely manner,&8221; including some more than 20 days late. Daily cash counts showed the cash drawer having more cash than it should on several occasions.

The audit revealed there were six daily reports that Ross, Taite nor the auditors could not find, with deposits totaling $20,423.19. Authorities believed the clerks used the cash themselves, and made loans from cash that should have been deposited.

Wilcox County Commission Chairman David Manzie said the clerks were placed on leave, pending the outcome of the legal proceedings. The alleged scandal in the small, rural community caused some residents to refrain from paying their water bills, investigators said.

During the Dec. 27 meeting, Commissioner Tracy Shaw made a motion requiring all residents that were delinquent to pay $50 immediately, and the balance within 60 days or risk disconnection. The motion was seconded and unanimously approved.