A former fire chief and his wife were indicted on felony charges Thursday, according to documents obtained from Fayette County Court.
Court clerks confirmed that the former chief of Smithers Volunteer Fire Department, Timothy M. Whittington, was indicted on one count of embezzlement. His wife, Patricia A. Whittington, was indicted on one count of fraudulent schemes.
A grand jury gathered enough evidence to believe that Whittington embezzled money from the department between July 21, 2010 and September 6, 2012, according to a copy of the indictment.
Former chief Timothy Whittington admitted to our cameras last year that he had used fire department funds to pay his personal bills that totaled nearly $4,000.
He said he and his wife plugged the fire department's checking information into their online bill pay and continued to use that account for a period of about three months.
Whittington said it was an honest mistake and that he took out a loan and paid the department back. Officials said Whittington stepped down from his post in January 2013.
The pair will be arraigned in Fayette County Court on Friday, May 24.
"I just want to emphasize he doesn't represent the volunteer fire service," said Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper. "This is an example of bad conduct of one or two people. It's an allegation, nonetheless, but he does not represent our fire service."
The Kanawha County Commission had funneled more than $10,000 a year to the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department, according to Carper. He said the county stopped giving the station money last year.
Some local residents said even an allegation of embezzlement worries them.
"It's just sad," said Mariah Tully, of Smithers. "There's not much money in this town. Maybe they think it's so small people will help them cover it up."
Thomas Scaggs, the mayor of Smithers, said he knew the West Virginia State Police launched an investigation into the alleged embezzlement.
"I already knew," Scaggs said. "I knew it was going to happen."
Scaggs said he always liked the Whittingtons, maintaining that he believes Timothy made a mistake.
The former chief admitted he had withdrawn money from the department's account instead of his own and returned the money almost immediately, according to Scaggs. The mayor said that night, he called Smithers City Council into executive session.
Scaggs could not say how long Whittington waited to inform officials after he withdrew the funds.
They mayor said he did not play an integral role in the investigation because the station doesn't technically answer to his office.
Smithers VFD is an incorporated volunteer fire department, which means the station answers to their own board of directors and receives some funding from the state and county commission. Scaggs said while he technically holds no jurisdiction over Smithers VFD , he hopes the city can openly communicate with fire officials in the future.
"We have to work together," Scaggs said. "They don't feel like they have to report anything to me, which is unfair to us, we need to know what's going on."
An acting chief--a Smithers city councilman--was elected to oversee the department. Scaggs said the department just formed a new board of directors that could soon elect a permanent chief.
Stay with us for the latest details on this developing story.