ALBANY, Ga. — South Georgia Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier filed a motion of intent to present evidence of similar transactions Friday morning against Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins and scheduled a June 5 hearing date before Dougherty Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss.
Riggins was indicted by a grand jury late Wednesday on two felony counts of theft by taking and public record fraud, in addition to a misdemeanor count of theft by taking.
Riggins reportedly earned nearly $30,000 per year as membership manager for the Albany South Georgia Girl Scout Council, but she was suspended from that job on Friday afternoon.
Lanier said Friday that the current indictment stems from two 2011-12 free or reduced school lunch applications filed for Riggins’ two children at Robert Cross Middle and Lincoln Magnet.
The first application, filed on Sept. 20, 2011, listed a total income of just $9,066. Nearly a month later, on Oct. 24, 2011, Riggins filed a second application listing a total income of $39,053.
Morningside Elementary Principal Gloria Baker and her husband, John, were arrested and charged with school lunch fraud in November of 2011. The pair were indicted along with Riggins on Wednesday.
The evidentiary motion filed Friday includes language pointing to lunch applications filed by Riggins for the 2007-08 and 2009-10 school years. Lanier asserts that the “applications failed to fully report or disclose all earnings or wages from all employment and/or all monies received in child support payments on behalf of a school child/children ...”
The motion says that the “state intends to present the evidence of similar transactions during the trial (of Riggins) to prove bent of mind and course of conduct.”
Lanier said the motion was filed mainly to corroborate charges contained in the indictment, but she added that new charges were also possible.
During the period between 2007 and 2011, Riggins filed four lunch applications with the DCSS which showed an income range of between $32,832 and $37,128. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, those figures qualified her family of four for reduced lunches.
The six lunch applications she filed with the school system has three official signature lines to approve the application: determining, verifying and confirming official. Only the determining offical’s signature was present on all the documents; verifying and confirming were left blank.
The indictment could herald the beginning of yet more trouble for Riggins. South Georgia District Attorney Joe Mullholland said late Thursday that he was preparing to send an indictment report to Gov. Nathan Deal on Friday.
The governor has the option of forming an administrative tribunal consisting of State Attorney General Sam Olens and two of Riggins’ peers — in this case school board members from other school districts — who will review her case and forward a nonbinding recommendation to Deal.
The governor then has the option of removing her from office until the charges are resolved.