Published: February 04, 2011
Now, mounting investigations are focusing on an attack from within that involves allegations of more than $135,000 in embezzled county funds and unauthorized wire transfers to Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.
Under arrest is Brenda S. Grubbs, 53, who in 2004 succeeded outgoing veteran Treasurer Geraldine Parrish, the woman who had asked for the safety glass and shepherded the county’s money for 16 years.
Grubbs, who lives on a rural farming property where her husband raises chickens and cattle on Whitehall Road, was released on $20,000 bond Wednesday after being placed under arrest following an interview in her office with Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew.
A search warrant affidavit states that Grubbs acknowledged to Agnew that she had cashed as much as $135,000 in checks drawn on county funds since August. Wachovia Bank officials began looking into efforts by Grubbs to cash a $14,000 check at the Goochland Wachovia, alerting County Administrator Rebecca Dickson, who called in the sheriff Wednesday.
Grubbs drove her black pickup truck from the county office complex to the sheriff’s office, where she was arrested Wednesday evening and made a video appearance before a Charlottesville magistrate, who set bail.
According to a search warrant, investigators found documents hidden in Grubbs’ sock and she told Agnew that “she was wiring money to Dubai by means of Western Union.” Agnew refused to elaborate.
Grubbs, whose next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, could not be reached for comment. She and her husband own a 75-year-old farmhouse on 68 acres assessed at $589,800, according to county records.
Dickson, meanwhile, said yesterday that Grubbs has surrendered all county documents and materials — keys and credit cards — to access county bank holdings and offices and has agreed not to perform any functions associated with her office. All electronic data in the office has been preserved.
“It is a very disappointing time for the county, but I believe this will enable us to improve the financial controls that we have been struggling with for some time,” Dickson said in a news release.
Dickson also said the county is investigating means of removing a constitutionally elected official from office; Grubbs, who is still identified as country treasurer on a bulletin board in her office, has not formally resigned.
Dickson said various investigative agencies are being called in to review financial records, including the auditor of public accounts. The state attorney general’s office authorized a Virginia State Police investigation Thursday.
In addition, county employees from other departments temporarily are assuming duties within the treasurer’s office, which is remaining open for business.
Grubbs earned $72,034 annually and was among those who first called attention to poor recordkeeping and check-cashing procedures within the county’s utilities department. Audits turned up more than $200,000 in idle cash.
County Administrator Gregory K. Wolfrey resigned in January 2009 after the financial problems were disclosed. The utilities director and another employee were fired.
After the audit, Dickson and staff members said they had compiled a list of more than 30 policies and procedures to put into effect.
A court order was issued Wednesday appointing Fluvanna Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeffrey W. Haislip as a special prosecutor in Grubbs’ case.