UPDATE | Richwood City officials appear in court again after arrests

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RICHWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 4/11/19 @ 5:30 p.m.
Preliminary hearings for four Richwood city officials were set for Thursday, but all four decided to time-waive their hearings.

Police Chief Lloyd Cogar III, former Mayor Bob Baber, former clerk Abigail McClung, and current mayor and former city recorder, Christine Drennen were arrested at the beginning of April. That was after the West Virginia State Auditor's Office Public Integrity and Fraud Unit released the findings of an 18-month long investigation into the city's alleged misuse of public funds.

Thursday, they all decided to time-waive their preliminary hearings, which means they want more time to review the evidence against them.

Christina Drennen, the mayor of Richwood, is charged with embezzlement. However, the charges are related to her time as the recorder for the city.

Between July of 2016 and January of 2017, Drennen oversaw the town's finances and records. Her role included serving as chair of the city's finance committee.

"She also had signature authority over the city pay checks," the criminal complaint states.

That's how, according to investigators, she was able to claim overtime for volunteering.

As recorder, Drennen received a monthly pay salary/stipend of $400.31. Investigators say she received a check for $343.69 (net) on July 7, 2016. She received a second check that same day for $1,437.12 "as an alleged employee of the city." The next day, she was paid again as a city employee. "Specifically, she was paid $1,342.05 for alleged overtime she claimed to have worked as an employee."

Later that month, investigators say Drennen "deemed herself" to be part of another group of flood recovery volunteers. The Incident Command Structure (ICS) team all allegedly paid themselves as employees of the city, even determining their own hourly rate.

According to the criminal complaint, Drennen set her rate at $30 per hour.

Abigail McClung, who served as a clerk for the city of Richwood, is charged with embezzlement and computer fraud. According to her criminal complaint, McClung served as clerk in 2017 "and several years preceding." She stopped working for the city in October of 2017.

Investigators say McClung's duties included "proper reporting of employee tax withholdings and employee contributions to state and federal entities." The forensic audit determined McClung did not do those things, but instead falsified tax forms "to indicate that withholdings had been remitted."

According to the criminal complaint, McClung confessed. She used a computer to create the false tax forms and then sent those documents to tax officials.

Lloyd Cogar III is charged with embezzlement and fraudulent or unauthorized use of a purchasing card. According to his criminal complaint, Cogar served as the police chief for the Richwood Police Department at the time of his alleged crimes.

In February of 2015, Cogar received two local government purchase cards. However, investigators say Cogar used those cards for personal reasons over the years.

Between August of 2015 and May of 2017, Cogar allegedly made at least 10 purchases in and around the city using the government purchase cards. It totaled $527.15.

In court on Thursday, Cogar says he still considers himself the chief of police, and he has one message for the people of Richwood, "Don't be too quick to judge on any of the charges of any of the people that have been charged. There is some good people here that is facing some serious stuff that I don't believe is deserved," Cogar said.

The former mayor of Richwood, Bob Baber is being charged with fraud and embezzlement charges.

Baber is accused of using his state issued purchasing card for unapproved purchases as well as paying himself for volunteer work.

According to a criminal complaint, Baber admitted to giving his purchasing card to other people to use at least 19 times.

The complaint states that Baber made 86 purchases, many of them with no receipts and some being personal.

All in all, the complaint states the transactions total $6,245.

All four of them will still have to come back for a preliminary hearing, but those have not been rescheduled yet. They have 30 days to come back.



UPDATE 4/5/19 @ 12 a.m.
Richwood City Council members voted to request the resignation of Mayor Christina Drennen, after she was arrested and charged with embezzlement.

The charges are related to her time as the recorder for the city. Between July of 2016 and January of 2017, Drennen oversaw the town's finances and records. Her role included serving as chair of the city's finance committee.

"She also had signature authority over the city pay checks," the criminal complaint states.

That's how, according to investigators, she was able to claim overtime for volunteering during the 2016 floods.

On Thursday, Mayor Drennen responded to the council's request. She told community members she will not resign because she believes this is a time the community needs to pull together.

Some city council members said their vote for her resignation had nothing to do with whether or not they believed she was guilty. Instead, they feared the state would no longer help Richwood with her in office. One member said he regrets voting to request her resignation. However, council member said they do not regret terminating former police chief Lloyd Cogar III, who is charged with embezzlement and fraudulent or unauthorized use of a purchasing card.

Community members voiced a general distrust and need for transparency at the meeting. They asked council members if they knew about the misuse of funds and payments to Mayor Drennen. Most council members said they knew about a pay scale, but they did not know the extent of the city's spending.

Richwood residents also asked if Mayor Drennen felt guilty about taking an extra paycheck for the city and she said no.

Mayor Drennen said the city followed the advice of consultants after the flood and admitted they were advised wrong.

Abigail McClung, who served as a clerk for the City of Richwood, is also charged with embezzlement and computer fraud. According to her criminal complaint, McClung served as clerk in 2017 "and several years preceding." She stopped working for the city in October of 2017.

Former Mayor Bob Henry Baber is also charged with fraud and embezzlement. He turned himself in earlier this week.

UPDATE 4/2/19 @ 5:30 p.m.
A former mayor of Richwood is being charged with fraud and embezzlement charges after turning himself in.

The charges against Bob Henry Barber stem from an 18 month long investigation into the city's alleged misuse of public funds.

Baber is accused of using his state issued purchasing card for unapproved purchases as well as paying himself for volunteer work that he did not do.

Baber was arraigned Tuesday afternoon at the Nicholas County magistrate court.

According to a criminal complaint, Baber admitted to giving his purchasing card to other people to use at least 19 times.

The complaint states that Baber made 86 purchases, many of them with no receipts and some being personal.

All in all, the complaint states the transactions total $6,245.

Keep checking WSAZ.com and the WSAZ app.

ORIGINAL STORY 4/2/19
Multiple current and former city officials in Richwood, West Virginia are facing criminal charges.

The West Virginia State Auditor's Office Public Integrity and Fraud Unit released the findings of an 18-month long investigation into the city's alleged misuse of public funds on Friday. West Virginia State Police and Nicholas County Prosecutor Jonathan Sweeney also worked on the investigation.

You can real the full report here.

Christina Drennen, the mayor of Richwood, is charged with embezzlement. However, the charges are related to her time as the recorder for the city.

Between July of 2016 and January of 2017, Drennen oversaw the town's finances and records. Her role included serving as chair of the city's finance committee.

"She also had signature authority over the city pay checks," the criminal complaint states.

That's how, according to investigators, she was able to claim overtime for volunteering

Widespread flooding in 2016 caused damage across Richwood, Nicholas County, and the state of West Virginia. According to Drennen's criminal complaint, she volunteered with the recovery and then paid herself for it. "Although she was an elected official and volunteering, she was made an employee of the city without Council knowledge or awareness."

As recorder, Drennen received a monthly pay salary/stipend of $400.31. Investigators say she received a check for $343.69 (net) on July 7, 2016. She received a second check that same day for $1,437.12 "as an alleged employee of the city." The next day, she was paid again as a city employee. "Specifically, she was paid $1,342.05 for alleged overtime she claimed to have worked as an employee."

Later that month, investigators say Drennen "deemed herself" to be part of another group of flood recovery volunteers. The Incident Command Structure (ICS) team all allegedly paid themselves as employees of the city, even determining their own hourly rate.

According to the criminal complaint, Drennen set her rate at $30 per hour. Investigators say she was paid as an employee again on July 28 and she continued to do that until around Jan. 9, 2017.

In addition to her monthly pay as recorder, Drennen was paid a total of $45,357.75 (gross) as a city employee. For many of the payments, Drennen allegedly signed the checks herself.

Drennen said her main focus right now is moving the city forward.

“The most important thing to remember – Richwood endured a horrible flood. Now we’re enduring another disaster on top of that.”

Currently, she says she is exploring the idea of expanding services (i.e. water, sanitation, etc.) to generate additional revenue for the city.

The mayor says she is innocent. She believes her name, and the names of her colleagues, will be cleared.

“There was never any scheme,” Drennen told reporters Friday. “The vast majority of people, honestly, that were rounded up today were good, well-meaning people that had all the right intentions in the world. Maybe we received bad advice about how to approach compensating those people for pouring their heart and souls into helping the city recover.”

Abigail McClung, who served as a clerk for the City of Richwood, is charged with embezzlement and computer fraud. According to her criminal complaint, McClung served as clerk in 2017 "and several years preceding." She stopped working for the city in October of 2017.

Investigators say McClung's duties included "proper reporting of employee tax withholdings and employee contributions to state and federal entities." The forensic audit determined McClung did not do those things, but instead falsified tax forms "to indicate that withholdings had been remitted."

According to the criminal complaint, McClung confessed. She used a computer to create the false tax forms and then sent those documents to tax officials.

In addition to the falsified tax forms, investigators say McClung wrote herself a check for 208 hours of vacation time. After she left her job she received a check (gross) for $3,120.

"City of Richwood employees are not entitled to payouts of unused vacation time," the complaint states. "Further, this figure appears falsified and in excess of amounts allotted to any full-time employee of the City of Richwood."

Lloyd Cogar III is charged with embezzlement and fraudulent or unauthorized use of a purchasing card. According to his criminal complaint, Cogar served as the police chief for the Richwood Police Department at the time of his alleged crimes.

In February of 2015, Cogar received two local government purchase cards. However, investigators say Cogar used those cards for personal reasons over the years.

Between August of 2015 and May of 2017, Cogar allegedly made at least 10 purchases in and around the city using the government purchase cards. It totaled $527.15. "These charges appear to be personal in nature and lack the supporting documentation, that is contrary to the provisions of the West Virginia Local Government Purchasing Cardholder Agreement." It's also contrary to state law, the complaint states.

Cogar is also accused of using the government purchasing cards to pay for tires and services for city vehicles. Investigators say it totaled more than $2,000 between July of 2015 and June of 2017. The catch -- he made those purchases at his personally-owned tire business, Allen's Discount Tire Store, according to investigators.

We have a reporter in Richwood Friday covering this developing story.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



 
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