"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 6:04 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:04:03 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 6:43 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:43:08 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 4:37 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:37:30 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:48 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:48:57 GMT
The heavy rains have left a lot of people with flooded basements. We want to remind people of potential dangers before tackling that mess. First, shut off power to all basement appliances. Don't touchMore >>
The heavy rains have left a lot of people with flooded basements. We want to remind people of potential dangers before tackling that mess.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 6:08 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:08:50 GMT
A rainy Vermont City Marathon forecast isn't slowing down runners or organizers. "Well, we're going to make some liquid sunshine out of all of this rain. That's the only choice we've got right now," saidMore >>
The countdown is on to this weekend's Vermont City Marathon and final preps are underway. Those finishing touches are coming in the rain, but organizers say the weather isn't slowing things down.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 4:24 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:24:06 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>