Defense attorney Mark Brimberry quizzes former Dougherty County Schools Nutrition Director Vanessa Hayes about forms used for the system's free and reduced lunch program during day two of former school board member Velvet Riggins' fraud trial.
ALBANY, Ga. — The school lunch fraud trial of suspended Dougherty School Board member Velvet Riggins continued Wednesday as former DCSS Child Nutrition Services Director Vanessa Hayes admitted a mistake was made in the processing of one of Riggins’ school lunch applications.
The application, for the 2011-12 school year, is dated Sept. 20, 2011, and lists an annual income of just $9,066 from child support and her monthly stipend as a school board member. On the income (Part 4) section of the application, she had written “Girl Scouts” but left out a dollar amount in annual income.
This qualified Riggins’ two children for free meals.
“A blank amount (in the income area) is a red flag for us.” Hayes, who is now the CNS director for the Tift County School System, testified. “It (the application) should not have been processed ... we didn’t follow our own procedures.”
Riggins’ attorney Mark Brimberry asserted that the CNS department made a mistake by processing the application without her Girl Scouts income listed.
Riggins is facing four counts — two felonies and two misdemeanors — resulting from an April grand jury indictment alleging she fraudulently filled out a school lunch application to obtain free or reduced meals for her two children in the DCSS. In July, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Riggins from office pending outcome of her trial.
The crux of the state’s case revolves around that Sept. 20 application.
The CNS official who accepted the application is retired DCSS application clerk Eva Holiday, who testified she remembered the day Riggins came into her office to fill out the paper work.
“If I remember correctly she (Riggins) was looking at the application and Robert Lloyd (former DCSS finance director) stepped in and spoke to her from the doorway,” Holiday recalled. “He asked her to come with him and she put down the application and appeared distracted. She said ‘I’ll be right back.’ and left with him.
“I was thinking that she was going to come back after she left Mr. Lloyd’s office. She never did.”
Holiday then processed the application.
Just more than a month later, on Oct. 24, 2011, Riggins submitted a second application listing an income of $39,053 — which included her $30,000 salary from the Girl Scouts.
This $39,053 figure was more in line with her other lunch applications from previous school years, which qualified her children for reduced meals at 40 cents each.
South Georgia Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier then called four more witnesses to the stand, including Girls Scouts of South Georgia Human Resources Director Vickie Warner; DCSS Executive Finance Director Kenneth Dyer, state Child Support Specialist Melissa Gatts and Albany High Cafeteria Manager Africa Jones.
Dougherty Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss recessed court until 9 a.m. today. Lanier said she would call “three, possibly five” more witnesses today.