Executive Director Chris Bedsaul and Human Resources Manager Sharon Nichols were both terminated Thursday night after the Rooftop of Virginia CAP Board of Directors went into closed session to discuss personnel matters. Less than a week earlier, on Oct. 28, Bedsaul and Nichols were indicted by a Grayson County Grand Jury with three direct indictments each for embezzlement.
All of the indictments indicate the amount of embezzlement at over $200 each, although no specific figure is given. Nichols is alleged to have embezzled more than $200 each on three occasions, beginning in the time period between Jan. 1-June 30, 2007, again from July 1-Dec. 31, 2010, and between Jan. 1 and Oct. 14, 2011. Bedsaul is alleged to have embezzled more than $200 each from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2007; from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2008: and between Jan. 1-Oct. 14, 2011.
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.
After the Rooftop Board of Directors came out of closed session Thursday, board member Renae Alderman Mitchell made separate motions to terminate Bedsaul as Executive Director and Nichols as Human Resources Director, effective immediately. Both motions were seconded by board member Laura Romanowski, and both motions were approved unanimously.
Mitchell then made a motion, which passed unanimously, to authorize the board's executive committee to begin a search for and hire an interim director. Rooftop Board Vice Chairman Roger Halsey also made separate motions approving Vicky Myers, Director of Head Start, and Cliff Testerman, Manager of Section 8 Housing, as authorized signatories on all Rooftop CAP financial accounts.
Halsey also made a motion to authorize the executive committee to make arrangements with state program supervisors for a comprehensive agency review that would result in a confidential report to the Rooftop Board for planning purposes. All motions passed unanimously.
After the meeting Thursday night, the Rooftop of Virginia CAP Board of Directors issued the following press release.
“The Rooftop Board of Directors would like to extend their gratitude to all in the Rooftop family and our community partners who have made it possible for Rooftop to continue regular operations. Rooftop of Virginia wants to reassure the public that the ongoing investigation will have no effect on our ability to provide services to our clients. All of our programs will continue to operate without interruptions and in this economy our services are more important than ever,” the press release states. “Rooftop of Virginia CAP has been a positive presence in the Twin Counties for more than 45 years, helping over 4,000 families each year. We are committed to maintaining that positive presence and we are dedicated to ensuring that Rooftop will be able to continue serving our community for many more years to come.”
Nichols and Bedsaul were both suspended with pay Sept. 30 after Special Agents from the Virginia State Police executed a search warrant at Rooftop headquarters in Galax that day. The Virginia State Police seized computers, documents, files and a hard drive as part of the embezzlement investigation. According to court papers for the search warrant filed in Grayson County, an informant advised the state police of the possible misuse of Rooftop funds.
According to the warrant, seized records date as far back as 2006 and include numerous financial records, including accounting and tax records, banking records, insurance reports, receipts and disbursement records, mileage logs and vouchers for reimbursement, and other items identifying sources of income and expenses, among others.
Special Agent Heather Brown wrote in a report that several reliable cooperating witnesses provided information and documentation that Rooftop of Virginia CAP had been misusing local, state and federal funding sources and that there were irregularities in financial management, grants management, internal controls, and budgeting. The report went on to state that Rooftop of Virginia funds were disbursed by employees to be used for non-employee airfare, as well as to employees for unnecessary or unattended travel and training. Rooftop of Virginia CAP funds were also issued by Rooftop of Virginia CAP employees to other employees as personal loans labeled as “salary advances” to cover personal debts, Brown wrote.
Brown wrote that during the investigation, several other people who had access to the information and records referenced by the first cooperating witness have independently verified the information provided by the cooperating witness.