A former Garland town clerk is expected to be in Sampson County court later this month to face a dozen felony charges in connection with a state investigation into illegal operations that allegedly included embezzlement and financial card fraud.
Longtime clerk Teresa Vaught, who was officially dismissed by the town in March 2012, stands charged with 11 counts of embezzlement by a public officer or trustee and a single count of financial card fraud. Assistant district attorney Robert Thigpen is prosecuting the case for the state. Vaught is being represented by Kenn Thompson of Warsaw.
Thigpen said the case is pending in Sampson County District Court.
There is a probable cause hearing scheduled for April 26, however that date will likely be used for administrative purposes for future calendaring, Thigpen said. Vaught has not been indicted in the case, having initially been charged by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations on Jan. 4 and issued those charges the same day.
Thigpen declined to discuss specific details of the state’s case, citing public records law.
Vaught, 68, of 85 E. 10th St., Garland, was the town’s longtime clerk up until early 2012. She was officially terminated from her duties in March 2012 by the Garland Board of Commissioners after being placed on probation just two months earlier following discrepancies found in the town’s finances and bookkeeping.
The town of Garland received a scathing letter in February 2012 from the N.C. Local Government Commission detailing the poor state of the town’s finances, a laundry list of operation deficiencies and serious weaknesses that required “immediate corrective action” for the town’s sustainability.
Vaught was initially placed on probation Jan. 26, 2012 the same night longtime mayor Anthony Johnson resigned and the town received an audit report that raised concerns with some of the town’s accounting and noted trouble reconciling financial records. During an emergency meeting Feb. 25, 2012 the board placed Vaught and deputy clerk Kristie Kersey on administrative leave with pay on the advice of the LGC. Days later, that suspension was modified, halting pay but still extending retirement and health insurance benefits.
On March 27, the board officially fired the two employees.
The next month, in April 2012, the board adopted resolutions in response to demands by Vaught and Kersey for accumulated vacation leave. In those resolutions, the board voted to withhold that compensation, citing “reasons of fault” that led to their termination.
In Vaught’s case, the board said she issued payroll deposits to herself and Kersey before the payment period was completed.
“Teresa Vaught knowingly and willingly issued electronic payroll deposits to herself and to the deputy clerk in advance of payroll periods ending, knowing that said future pay had not been earned and was not yet due or payable,” the board’s resolution read. “These actions were well beyond the scope of her authority as town clerk and without authorization by the town of Garland.”
In the other resolution, it was noted that Kersey requested and received the advance payroll deposits issued by Vaught from the town’s bank account, similarly knowing that the future pay had not been earned and was not yet due to her.
In the past year, the Garland board has worked to correct finances and implement stringent spending policies and cost-cutting that would get the town in better standing. In a letter from the state this year, Garland officials were given a review that represented almost a complete turnaround — the fund balance available was positive; expenditures did not exceed appropriations, the Water and Sewer system was now self-supporting and personnel problems had been corrected.
Still required to operate under LGC’s watch, another corrective plan was submitted to the state by the town last month.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.