Displaying items by tag: council on aging

A malicious prosecution lawsuit by a woman accused of misappropriating flood relief donations should be dropped, according to the recommendation of a federal magistrate reviewing the case.

Denise Mathis, former director of the Haywood County Council on Aging, claims she was wrongly accused of mismanaging the finances of her former agency. Mathis lost her job and was charged with 14 counts of embezzlement in 2006 for allegedly misappropriating $100,000 in flood relief donations — one piece out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that poured into the county in the wake of massive flooding along the Pigeon River that wiped out dozens of homes and businesses in 2004.

In an attempt to clear her name, Mathis sued District Attorney Mike Bonfoey and Waynesville Detective Tyler Trantham for malicious prosecution and accused them of inadequately investigating her case. She also sued them for conspiracy and making false public statements.

But the federal magistrate found no evidence that Bonfoey or Trantham set out to malign Mathis. They were acting in their official capacity as a prosecutor and police detective and cannot be sued simply because the target of an investigation doesn’t like the outcome.

“To do so would subject every prosecutorial decision, every investigation that leads to charges, and every decision of a grand jury to be second guessed by a federal court,” Magistrate Dennis Howell wrote in his recommendation.

Whether the case is indeed dropped will be up to a federal judge, who will presumably take the magistrate’s recommendation into account.

“The Magistrate’s ruling confirms the town’s strongly held belief that Officer Trantham acted professionally in all respects and that absolutely no wrongful acts were committed by him or town employees,” Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown said.

The embezzlement charges against Mathis were ultimately dropped. While the $100,000 in question did not make it into the hands of flood victims as donors intended, it likewise didn’t go into Mathis’ pocket, a police detective and financial investigator determined. It was used to cover salaries and overhead of the nonprofit agency — and it therefore would be hard to make the embezzlement charges stick in court, Bonfoey said of his decision to drop the charges.

The Naturalist's Corner

  • Fingers still crossed
    Fingers still crossed Status of the Lake Junaluska eagles remains a mystery, but I still have my fingers crossed for a successful nesting venture. There was some disturbance near the nest a week or so ago — tree trimming on adjacent property — and for a day or…

Back Then with George Ellison

  • The woodcock — secretive, rotund and acrobatic
    The woodcock — secretive, rotund and acrobatic While walking stream banks or low-lying wetlands, you have perhaps had the memorable experience of flushing a woodcock — that secretive, rotund, popeyed, little bird with an exceedingly long down-pointing bill that explodes from underfoot and zigzags away on whistling wings and just barely managing…
Go to top