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Sparks fly between supervisors over Moser allegations

SoVaNow.com / October 05, 2021

Recriminations flew among Halifax County supervisors on Monday night over the disclosure of alleged embezzlement by former chief animal warden Todd Moser and the subsequent decision by County Administrator Scott Simpson to accept Moser’s resignation rather than fire him on the spot.

For some 30 minutes, supervisors aired their grievances as two main points of contention dominated the conversation — how the confidential personnel information regarding Moser leaked to the press, and why Moser was allowed to quit his job with his employee benefits intact.

The back-and-forth took place after supervisors returned to a nearly empty conference room to resume the public portion of their meeting, following a closed session to discuss exempted matters under Virginia’s open government law. By the time the supervisors reemerged, the crowd that was on hand for the main portion of the monthly board meeting had departed, leaving staff and media for an audience.

ED-1 supervisor Ricky Short quickly brought up the subject of a recent email exchange with ED-8 supervisor William Bryant Claiborne, setting up the clash to come.

In the email, a portion of which Short read aloud, Claiborne wrote that he was “dismayed” by Short’s decision not to call any meetings of the policy and personnel committee so far this year, in the time Claiborne has served on the panel. Short, quoting from the email, cited Claiborne’s claim that, “it seems I have been kept out of the loop of this committee.” Short is chair of the personnel and policy committee.

“We haven’t had a personnel committee meeting this whole year so you haven’t been kept out the loop, Mr. Claiborne,” Short said.

“All I’m saying [is] get your facts straight,” Short later added.

The topic brought a tart rejoinder from Claiborne, who questioned why he wasn’t notified in timely fashion of a recently scheduled meeting of the committee — which was scratched due to the failure to provide Claiborne with three day’s notice as required.

Blaming the lapse on a staff error, this seemingly narrow dispute opened the door to a lengthy exchange between Short and Claiborne — with the embezzlement allegations against Moser providing the backdrop.

Without naming who he believes may have leaked the news, Short decried the disclosure of an email written by County Administrator Simpson, which formed the basis of a News & Record article on Moser published Sept. 13. In an email he penned days earlier to supervisors, Simpson revealed that Moser was under investigation by Virginia State Police for alleged theft of county funds at the animal shelter. Simpson further wrote that Moser admitted to embezzling — both to him and to State Police — and that the thefts had taken place over a period of five years.

Short expressed dismay over the leak, noting that he had planned to convene the aborted personnel and policy committee meeting in September to “talk about Mr. Moser,” and now believes, “we have to watch what we say in closed meetings.

“That [Simpson’s email] somehow got leaked to the press. Eight, nine, 10, 11 people knew about that,” said Short. “Verbatim, that was quoted in the newspaper. Somebody in this room leaked that. In other words, we have a mole amongst us.”

Short continued, “I don’t know who to point a finger to or nothing” but added, “Confidentiality is out the room now because it goes straight to the press before we know what’s going on.”

Claiborne interrupted to criticize Short’s use of the word “mole” to describe how the news got out.

“A mole is somebody who talks about things that are illegal,” said Claiborne. “What information are you talking about that makes you say [this was] a mole?”

He pointed out the leaked information did not originate in closed session — rather, it was contained in Simpson’s email to supervisors — and it’s possible that a security breach could have led to the disclosure. “You need to be careful by innuendo who you try to accuse of [leaking],” Claiborne told Short, adding quickly, “I didn’t say you accused me.”

Claiborne turned the conversation around to the decision by Simpson to allow Moser to resign rather than firing him — a move that would have cut off payment of Moser’s accrued vacation and comp time wages.

“I have nothing against the county administrator, I have nothing against you or no other member of this board, but my job as a supervisor is to make sure I protect the county,” said Claiborne.

“Our obligation as a board is to be prudent caretakers of the taxpayers’ money. That’s our obligation. I feel that when something like this occurs, you don’t reward somebody by saying they’re entitled to something.”

ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon made a similar point: “I disagree with the decision to allow comp time and especially accepting the resignation of any employee that openly admits his or her involvement [in] embezzlement against this county.

“Such acts should not be rewarded with any part of a benefits package,” Brandon continued. “In fact, any individual admitting to such acts should be terminated immediately.

“How can I be expected to consider a $173 million dollar school package — that’s a lot of money — if we are going to allow an employee of this county to walk off with our money with no penalty but the benefits of a retirement package?” Brandon asked.

Claiborne said his opposition to how Moser’s termination was handled was purely a matter of common sense — when somebody has “been stealing for five years you don’t give then extra money. You can’t do that.

“Todd and I have known each other for years,” Claiborne said. “I have utmost respect for him and I still don’t have any hatred. At least he was man enough to admit that he had done something wrong. He was man enough.

“But setting that aside, after that, we as supervisors, administrators or anybody else involved are supposed to do what is in the best interest of the county,” he said.

Rather than continuing to pay Moser, the county should have used any accrued salary as a potential “set-off” to reclaim any stolen funds, Claiborne added.

As for his jab in the email to Short, complaining about being left “out of the loop” of personnel committee business, Claiborne said, “It’s natural for me to feel that way seven months after I’ve been appointed.

“We’re not supposed to be moles. We’re supposed to be open to the public. Mole makes it seem like we’re trying to keep a secret.”

After listening to Claiborne’s remarks, Short offered a rebuttal — arguing that a snap firing of Moser could have created more trouble for the county if the Board of Supervisors and county administration failed to follow standard personnel procedures.

“The investigation is still going on and we don’t even know the dollar amount yet,” said Short. “I think the timing was just off, we had to slow down and think this thing through because we have so much in that personnel and policy manual.”

The revelations of Moser’s alleged theft should have been kept confidential until the county could “have been seen legally to be doing things right. We can’t just say we need to do this and do that, when you’ve got a policy manual that says you cannot do it,” Short continued.

“Even though he embezzled from us, he can turn around and sue us if we don’t follow that policy and procedure manual,” Short said.

Hearing that, Claiborne scoffed at Short’s claim — “He [Moser] can’t do a thing … You’re wrong there” Claiborne said. “He can’t go to any court of law and ask for any kind of relief because his hands are dirty. He admitted that he stole from us.”

ED-2 supervisor Jeff Francisco spoke up to say that, like Short, he had reservations about firing an employee who is under investigation but whose wrongdoing has not been conclusively established. “I still believe in innocent until proven guilty,” said Francisco.

He likened the situation to someone admitting wrongdoing only to find out later that another person committed the crime. “What if [Moser] was fired that day and a week later we come to find out it wasn’t him, it was one of the other people who worked [at the animal shelter]?” asked Francisco. “What if he admitted it to cover up for somebody?

“If he admitted it to cover up for someone else and we fire him … do we hire him back again?”

But Claiborne noted the county, by firing Moser, wouldn’t be acting on the basis of an incomplete criminal investigation, or in the realm of criminal justice at all. “What we’re dealing with is that [Moser] was an honest man in this case and he admitted [embezzlement]. If somebody came into my office and admitted to me that they’ve been stealing from me for five years, I would have immediately terminated them.

“And I believe you can do that privately,” said Francisco.

“You can do it publicly too,” replied Claiborne.

The discussion ended with no action by supervisors, but Board Chairman Hubert Pannell called for one thing to happen — the resumption of meetings by the dormant personnel and policy committee.

“With all of this time … and we haven’t had one personnel meeting? Now something is wrong with that picture,” said Pannell, turning to committee chairman Short. “We’ve gone the whole year without a personnel meeting?

“Let’s get that straight first of all. You’ve got to have a meeting,” Pannell said.



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98

Comments

Cudos to Mr. Claiborne and Mr. Brandon for being brave enough to speak the truth. Mr. Short you broke your own rule by reading a email. And you are not a mole? Wow! Practice what you preach.

Comments

Claiborne and Brandon are WRONG! We still have innocent until proven guilty, but it seems that they forget that. I bet if the guy had been a minority, would have been a different story. See that they didn't complain about the minority cop being paid after being put on leave for the same thing. the county gives so bo money. To date Todd has not been arrested, only under investigation. Sorry there should be no privacy when it comes to county money. What does short, claiborne and others have to hide. The person that leaked it should be rewared! Sick and tired of government people thinking they are leaders, they are public servants, SERVANTS! They need to remember that.

Comments

All political. Termination no based on criminal acts.Based on Moser’s admission. Personnel issue not criminal. He stole admitted and should be fired. Not a racial issue. Color is of no importance here.Don’t make it one.

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Didn't Moser admit to it? That kind of voids the innocent until proven guilty argument. They are all flustered because they are all crooks and don't want certain things to come to light.

Comments

From The wizard of oz…………to allpolitical2……..sir, please step from behind the sheet that is hiding you so we can see who is throwing the mud at someone at just about every publication. You seem to be against everything, you think our county taxes are too high, and you have a problem with minorities. Step forward and announce yourself and your beliefs. Several weeks ago you asked the citizens not to pay their taxes to reduce county services, teachers, athletic programs, etc. jay camp put it bluntly several weeks ago, the way people over 45, my generation learned in the classroom is not the way we have to teach our kids now. Now it is all computers, chemistry, biology,etc. if you need your new car worked on you have to hook it up to a computer. For the kids that stay it is a hard job in retail or dollar general. The good jobs are in Raleigh, Richmond, Lynchburg, etc. and so goes our county population.

Comments

Instead of discussing county business, the Board gets into an argument. The lack of professionalism continues.

Comments

The only reason the two in law enforcement that stole is greed. Both had long, good paying careers, benefits, etc, and yet decided they needed more and seized on opportunities to enrich themselves more. Plain and simple. The BoS has forever now pitted each member against the other. Each individual member is so scared that the one sitting next to them might have a little more power than them, a few more last words, all out of ego. The point of community is to be a community not point out every little individual grievance. A man would talk to another man face to face about that. It is my belief these men on the BoS must be cowards and could not admit they could ever be wrong about anything, and forever seek ways to exert control over their counterparts rather than do anything out of love for their community. This county was left behind years ago at the hands of these men, and men like them, and all they know are ways to kill any growth that doesn't suit them and bicker about the past.

Comments

Ricky Short you did what you said the mole did. Made public a confidential email from a supervisor. Guess mole doesn’t apply to you you good ole boy. What a joke

Comments

Personnel issues do NOT have to be handled behind closed doors, there is NO LAW that requires it. Now of course it is a reason to go into a closed session meeting but c'mon folks, aren't there enough backdoor deals made in Halifax County?! I applaud Claiborne, Brandon, & Pannell for trying to instill some accountability and transparency in our local government. As far as Mr. Short, well all I can say is he is another ED#1 tyrant who cries when he doesn't get his way, while Mr. Francisco is just another good ole boy. The good ole boys seem to forget an old saying "What is done in the dark will always come to light."

Comments

A Roanoke Va city councilman has been charged with embezzle and is still searching on city council. HES BEEN CHARGED!!!! He has not resigned or been terminated, which is correct because he has not been found guilty in a court of law. Personnel law absolutely gives Moser to sue these folks under several statutes, federally. Good luck BOS!

Comments

@Treat - Nice try but you’re wrong because Mosier admitted to the crime to his supervisor then resigned his position with the County. Once he did that he gave up any rights he would have had to sue. At that point he is no longer an employee and is not covered by any Personnel law. The BOS can discuss his employment status openly at any given time, and it makes no difference if he is acquitted or not he’s out and would have to re-apply for the job like any other person now to work his old job.

Comments

As much as it pains me to admit, for once Clairborne is my hero for asking why Moser was not immediately terminated after confessing to Simpson and Sbi thwt he took the money. He should have been fired on the spot. What the hell was Simpson thinking? But why was this not discovered for 5 years?? Was there an audit? How timely this csme out before a school boatd bote for a new school that moser was against….

Comments

So, interesting how all this takes place and Moser is allowed to resign with benefits and somehow all this information is subsequently leaked to the press. It might be worthy to look into motives and this 173 million dollar school vote. Let’s assume Moser is against this unnecessary expenditure and he is the deciding vote if it comes up for a vote. What if someone had the dirt on Moser and orchestrated his resignation with benefits. Subsequently, the school board immediately schedules a vote on the new (unnecessary) school and the vote passes. Wouldn’t that be a hell of a story? Hard to keep dirt like that secret, especially if someone is making calls across the county spreading the news that Moser was embezzling money from the proceeds of the fair. But, Hey, what do I know? This may just be a wild imagination…..

Comments

Expanding on that imaginative scenario… Just think if that little scenario had any legs, Did Mr. Moser resign with benefits in exchange for admitting embezzlement? Was his exit an orchestrated effort to get him out of the way of the school vote? Perhaps by someone who provided the evidence of the embezzlement? Does anyone think that the timing of the $173M school vote to be rather convenient? Would it make sense for the VA. State Police to look into this matter?

Comments

Finance director and treasurer needs to be investigated. You’ll fine something. 5 years and they didn’t see the discrepancies? Come on man! I smell a coverup!. Supervisors do the right thing and stop covering up for them. Independent forensic audit of county books!

Comments

Thanks Mr.Claiborne. Thanks to the Short’s mole too. At least we have 2 honest folks over there in Halifax!

Comments

I’m a CPA for a county in Texas. Your CPA should have picked up on these issues if they were going in for 5 years. You need to perform a forensic audit by a neutral accountant to see if there are any other things that have occurred. Go back at least 10 years. Something doesn’t add up here. It does seem like your county administrator covered for this man or maybe others. Investigation needed.

Comments

Its checks and balances and chain of custody issues this county lacks that creates the opportunities for theft. allowing Moser , who admitted theft, to walk away with benefits is unacceptable under these circumstances. Kudos to Claiborne for holding the line. The criminal act of theft trumps any personnel issue debates. Now, the crux of this issue is how the County treasurer and accounting missed this theft. it proves a lack of chain of custody processes that are not in place. The BOS needs to request independent audit of all offices in Halifax. Whats the chain of custody process for the County Fair cash?? How many people sign off on nightly receipts?

Comments

Short you didn’t know what was going on? The man admitted to stealing from you for 5 years and you don’t fire him? You should resign!

Comments

You can call me all the names that you want. Many, many people feel the way I do. Claiborne is a joke. You are innocent till proven guilty, so bo couldn't fire the Lt till she was charged. Same with Moser, I didn't bring it up but I think he was framed up and that if he agreed to resign the county could steal more money from the citizens and build a new school that is not needed. Taxes should be cut by at lest 10% and the county and school budget by at lest 20%


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