ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County School System Police Chief Troy Conley confirmed Tuesday that Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins is under investigation for allegedly filing false information on a 2011-12 school lunch application.
Conley said the investigation was launched last week after Dougherty County Finance Director Robert Lloyd brought a possible problem to the attention of the police.
“We’re not close to wrapping this thing up, we’re still in the beginning phase,” Conley said. “We are hoping to interview her (Riggins) sometime this week.
Conley said that Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been notified and will be “working in conjunction” with the DCSS police.
Edwards said that if charges were brought in the matter, he would recuse himself from hearing the matter directly and would ask the Georgia Attorney General’s Office to appoint a special prosecutor.
“I anticipate that I will recuse myself from that particular part of the investigation,” Edwards said. “We’ll continue on with the other school lunch prosecutions, like with the principal (Gloria Baker), but will hand over anything involving Mrs. Riggins to the attorney general.”
Edwards said that the decision to recuse himself comes in an effort to avoid any perceived conflict of interest, given that he knows Riggins socially and professionally. He said he wants to ensure the investigation “remains aboveboard.”
Riggins, reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, said, “I have no comment at this time. I just can’t say anything.”
She confirmed she has retained the services of attorney Mark Brimberry.
School system attorney Tommy Coleman said the board’s options are limited in regard to possible discipline against Riggins if the allegations are proven to be true.
“The Board does not have the power to remove her from office, only the governor’s office has that power and only if she is convicted of a felony.” said Coleman. “The most the board can do is censure her.”
School Board Chair James Bush, reached while leaving the School Administration Building, said he was shocked by the allegations against Riggins.
“Velvet is a very close friend of mine and is a person I respect,” Bush said. “I am not privy to the investigation, and I can only hope these allegations are not true.”
The Riggins investigation comes on the heels of the arrest last month of Morningside Elementary Principal Gloria Baker and her husband, John, on three counts each of fraud for allegedly falsifying information on free or reduced lunch applications.
Baker was suspended by the School Board for 15 days without pay, but the couple’s legal issues have yet to be resolved.
Citing child privacy concerns, the DCSS late last month turned down The Albany Herald’s Open Records request to review the lunch applications of system employees and School Board members.