WAYNESBURG – The former secretary/treasurer of the Brave Water and Sewer Authority was charged by state police Friday with stealing more than $69,000 from the authority by altering authority checks between May 2012 and August 2013.
Carolyn E. Hillberry, 55, of 121 Freedom Street, Brave, was arraigned before District Judge Lou Dayich in Waynesburg on one count of theft and 116 counts of forgery. Hillberry was released on $10,000 unsecured bond and faces a preliminary hearing Sept. 4.
Members of the authority board and the authority solicitor met with state police in June to discuss the alleged theft of authority money, according to a criminal complaint filed by Trooper Robert Cree.
Cree said police were presented with an audit prepared by Joseph A. Prinzo that indicated 116 checks were altered on three different authority accounts. The auditor believes alterations were made to the checks after the checks received the required signatures from two board members, Cree said.
It was determined that $69,790.43 was stolen.
Cree said police also were presented with handwritten letters addressed to board members from Hillberry in which she admitted taking the money by altering the checks after receiving the proper signatures.
The authority serves about 80 customers in Brave. It operates its own sewage treatment system and purchases treated water for distribution from the Morgantown, W.Va., Utilities Board.
Problems with the authority came to light last August after Wayne Township filed a petition with the court asking it to order the authority to turn over its books for auditing.
The petition noted the authority’s sewage discharge permit expired and the authority failed to make its monthly payments on a loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, PENNVEST.
DEP confirmed in September the authority’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit expired earlier that year and the authority made no application to renew it.
Hillberry told a reporter at the time she believed the authority had a valid discharge permit and she would check to make sure it was up to date on its PENNVEST loan payments. She also noted the authority didn’t have the money to keep a solicitor or engineer on retainer or make needed repairs at its sewage plant.
Problems the authority experience last year have all been resolved, said John Brookover, who served on the authority board since October and is now chairman. “We’re up to date on everything,” he said Friday.
The authority is now current on payments on its PENNVEST loan and received a new NPDES permit from DEP, Brookover said.
The authority also is now planning to complete some needed work on its sewage treatment plant with the help of a Community Development Block Grant it has received through the county, he said.
Assistance it has received from the county, the township and others have helped the authority resolve the problems it was facing and begin to move forward, Brookover said.