Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Former Village Clerk took advantages of weaknesses in embezzlement case

Melanie A. Debadts

“The former Clerk-Treasurer took advantage of weaknesses in the Village’s internal control structure, and misappropriated approximately $68,000 of Village funds by making unauthorized payments to herself.” That was part of the statement from the New York State Comptroller’s Office following an investigation into missing funds from the Village of Wolcott coffers.

“These payments were in the form of extra payroll payments, unauthorized overtime payments, excessive health insurance buyouts, unearned leave payouts, overpayment of vital statistics fees, and payments that were inappropriately charged to the Village’s records management grant. Additionally, the former Clerk-Treasurer did not maintain accurate and complete financial records and did not complete required tasks as described in grant documentation,” the report continued.

It was back on September 15, 2011 when then Village of Wolcott Clerk/Treasurer Melanie A. Debadts resigned after an initial investigation found irregularities in Village accounts. State Police were notified and the State Comptroller’s Office began a full investigation and audit of the Village financial records.

Last Wednesday (5/9) Debadts, age 35, of Countryman Road in Wolcott was arrested by State Police Investigator Doug Thomas and charged with 106 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the 1st Degree, a Class E Felony and Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree, a Class D Felony.

Debadts was arraigned in the Town of Butler Court and released on her own recognizance. She is to return to the Village of Wolcott Court on June 7, when, due to the felony level, the case will be bumped up to County Court.

Records indicate Debadts has no prior criminal history, but Wayne County District Attorney Rick Healy said his office will ask not only for restitution of the missing funds, but some prison time as well.

The former Clerk-Treasurer began her employment with the Village May 29, 2007 and resigned effective September 15, 2011, after the Mayor and the Village’s accounting consultant contacted the State Comptroller’s Office concerning the identification of extra payroll checks to the former Clerk-Treasurer in the 2010 fiscal year.

As the Village’s chief fiscal officer, the Clerk-Treasurer is responsible to, among other things, have custody of all Village moneys, collect and deposit cash received, maintain the accounting records, file financial reports, and sign checks. The Clerk-Treasurer also is the tax collector for the Village, and is responsible for processing weekly payroll, and ultimately is responsible for water billings and collections, which are primarily handled by the Deputy Clerk-Treasurer.

“We initially examined Village records for the period covering June 1, 2009 – December 19, 2011. After identifying significant payroll discrepancies, we expanded the scope period back to June 1, 2007 for payroll to review the entire period the former Clerk-Treasurer held the position,” said the Comptroller’s report.

Melanie has reportedly separated from her husband and the couple’s former residence is under foreclosure.

The Village has already initiated new procedures following the State Comptroller’s findings.