Special Agents from the Wytheville Field Office of the Virginia State Police executed a search warrant at Rooftop of Virginia in Galax on Friday. Delmer Fields, chairman of the Rooftop of Virginia Board of Directors, said Executive Director Chris Bedsaul and Human Resources Manager Sharon Nichols have been suspended with pay while the investigation is being conducted. Both were escorted to their offices to pick up their belongings following a meeting of the Rooftop of Virginia Board of Directors on Friday, Fields said.
“Agents seized financial records and computer equipment,” the Virginia State Police said in a statement Monday. “The investigation revealed misappropriation of funds was the basis of the search. The investigation is ongoing.”
Fields said the Rooftop board learned of the investigation at approximately 2 p.m. Friday. The board called a special meeting an hour later, where it went into closed session, he said. Rooftop is audited every year.
“And we’ve never had any problems…yet,” Fields said.
After more than two hours in closed session, the board returned to open session. Fields said the board discussed appointing another auditor to verify its finances. No action was taken, however.
“We said we might need to do that, but I don’t know if they will or not,” Fields said. “I don’t think they have the money.”
Fields said he didn’t know what led to the state police investigation. Board members seemed to be surprised by the news as well.
“We were shocked,” Fields said. “I was at a total loss just as much as anybody down there.”
Rooftop of Virginia CAP is a nonprofit agency that provides headstart educational programs, weatherization, and fuel assistance programs, among others to low-income families in Carroll County, Grayson County and the City of Galax. It operates through federal, state and local funds.
Fields said he hopes people will wait to reserve judgment until the investigation is complete, and remember all the positive things Rooftop of Virginia does for the community.
“I just hope people don’t get the wrong idea about it until things are straightened out. Rooftop serves a lot of low-income people and it does a good service to Carroll County, Grayson and Galax,” Fields said. “People get the wrong idea about things sometimes and it ruins it.”
Nichols, a former Carroll County supervisor, also was the subject of an investigation during her tenure as a member of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors. According to an article in The Carroll News from Sept. 22, 2004, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors learned of a trip Nichols allegedly took that involved using a van from her employer Rooftop of Virginia, and for which she was also reimbursed travel expenses by a check made to her, to cover what officials thought was the use of her own car.
At the September 2004 meeting of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, the board passed a motion asking Nichols to resign. An article in the same edition of The Carroll News showed that Nichols had been paid $8,790.02 in travel reimbursement by Carroll County from Jan. 1, 2000 to Sept. 20, 2004. The next highest travel expense paid to a supervisor during that time was $5,715.63 to L.J. Jones. The next highest during the time was $3,121.62 to Sam Dickson.
After that meeting of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors in 2004, a special prosecutor was assigned to investigate the matter. The investigation did not result in any charges. Nichols later resigned from the Carroll County Board of Supervisors in 2006 citing the demands of trying to juggle family, her duties as a supervisor and a new job at the time.