"I want my money back!" said Joe Wood, the chairman of the Hardwick Electric Department's commission.
The Hardwick Electric Department got a jolt last week when it discovered more than a million dollars of its money was missing. "We're sorry, this is just not right," Wood said.
The Hardwick Electric Commission says office employees alerted it something was wrong with the utility's books. Federal investigators with the U.S. Attorney's office are now looking into whether an embezzlement scheme stretching over ten years is to blame.
Reporter Jack Thurston: "Who's the real victim here? Will people's rates have to go up because of this?"
Joe Wood: "Maybe not, I don't know. This was going on for a long period of time and we're okay as a company. In the long term, we'll probably be okay because it won't bleed any more, but in the short term, we have a problem to fix."
Wood adds that power rates may go up in the future, as they regularly do, but not because of this and only this.
WCAX News has learned office manager Joyce Bellavance has been relieved of her duties, but prosecutors have not filed any charges against her. Hardwick Electric believes no other workers knew about the missing money.
The company has fraud insurance that will cover some, but not all, the million-plus dollars it lost. The funds could have been used for upgrades, repairs, or investments in the power system.
"We're going to work through the finances and get through just fine," Wood said.
The utility promises its 4,200 customers will not see any changes in service. It's already improved its bookkeeping and says it's doing all it can to get back the cash. In the meantime, the commission wonders how routine audits, including checks by regulators, raised no red flags. "She just did a good job, I'm sad to say," Wood said.
Again, Joyce Bellavance has not been charged with doing anything wrong. The U.S. Attorney does not comment on active investigations. Hardwick Electric says it's cooperating fully.
Friday, May 24 2013 12:53 AM EDT2013-05-24 04:53:51 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:52 AM EDT2013-05-24 04:52:17 GMT
Many Vermont roads turned to rivers Thursday night. Flash flooding made it difficult to get around. Route 15 in Underhill became a dead end -- between Poker Hill Road and Cilley Hill Road. Gushing waterMore >>
Many Vermont roads turned to rivers Thursday night. Flash flooding made it difficult to get around.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 7:44 PM EDT2013-05-23 23:44:21 GMT
New developments in a WCAX News investigation into a land deal between Gov. Peter Shumlin and an East Montpelier man. Jeremy Dodge's kids say the governor took advantage of their dad and they now planMore >>
New developments in a WCAX News investigation into a land deal between Gov. Shumlin and an East Montpelier man. Jeremy Dodge's kids say the governor took advantage of their dad and they plan to fight the governor for the property.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 8:00 PM EDT2013-05-24 00:00:29 GMT
Steve Stitzel is a lawyer with three decades of tax sales experience. His firm represents towns from Bennington to Newport. He says in recent years towns have gotten tough on tax collections. "BudgetsMore >>
There are several steps before a home is sold in a tax sale. Once it is sold, homeowners still have a year to try to get back their property. And many do find a way to pay their back taxes and stay put.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 9:57 AM EDT2013-05-23 13:57:59 GMT
Four colleges, including Dartmouth, are now facing federal complaints over their handling of rape allegations. Other colleges facing complaints include Swarthmore College, University of Southern California,More >>
Four colleges, including Dartmouth, face federal complaints over their handling of rape allegations.More >>