State police probe of county financial practices drawing to close

A Virginia State Police investigation opened two years ago into county government procurement practices is now wrapping up, according to a source close to the case.

The investigation was touched off by a letter from Rappahannock County Treasurer Debbie Knick to the county’s Board of Supervisors in February 2017. In the letter, Knick accused her own county government of mismanagement, including failure to follow proper expense and payroll procedures and lack of oversight of budgeting and spending.

Knick had cited cases of “overpayment” of county funds and sloppy oversight with county-issued government credit cards. The investigation, which began in March 2017, surrounded in part spending and procurement activities.

The treasurer also criticized then-Rappahannock County Administrator Debbie Keyser, who had been in her post almost eight months, for the “amount of mistakes and the apparent lack of oversight and miscommunication” when conducting official business.

VSP Special Agent W.W. Talbert delivered his report to Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff in September 2017, but declined to provide details about the investigation.

“I can’t give out information on an open investigation,” he said. “It won’t be closed until there’s either a denial to prosecute or charges dropped.”

When asked to clarify if that statement meant he had discovered criminal activity, Talbert replied: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actually found a criminal offense.”

He indicated that a finding of criminality would be up to Goff. But the county attorney on Nov. 13, 2017 recused himself from the probe.

An order signed by Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker stated that Goff “is so situated with respect to the accused in this matter that it would be improper for him to act as Attorney for the Commonwealth in this case, and requested that a special prosecutor be appointed.”

Parker signed a written order naming Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Walther as special prosecutor in the case. Walter on two occasions told this newspaper that one question led to another in the probe, and following up on the state police findings would take time.

About Patty Hardee 294 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.