WATERLOO — Former Seneca County Finance Director Brandi Deeds was indicted by a Seneca County Grand Jury Tuesday on nine Class E felony charges and one Class A misdemeanor charge.
She is charged with seven counts of falsifying business records, a count of fourth-degree grand larceny and a single count of defrauding the government along with a misdemeanor count of official misconduct.
The indictment accuses Deeds of:
Defrauding the government — The first count of the indictment charges her with engaging in a scheme constituting a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud Seneca County by false or fraudulent pretenses or representations and obtaining property with a value in excess of $1,000 from the county. She is accused of falsifying her time sheets and was paid $2,169.54 for time not worked from Dec. 29, 2017 to May 4, 2018.
Fourth-degree grand larceny — The second count accuses her of — during the period of about Dec. 29, 2017 until around May 4, 2018, while at the County Office Building — stealing property valued at more than $1,000.
First-degree falsifying business records — The indictment states that Deeds, with intent to defraud, omitted making a true entry in the county business records in violation of a duty to do so, which she knew was imposed on her. The intent to defraud includes an intent to conceal the commission of another crime, larceny.
The same charge was listed for Dec. 29, 2017; Feb. 26, 2018; March 26, 2018; April 9, 2018; May 2, 2018; May 3, 2018 and May 4, 2018.
Official misconduct — This is a Class A misdemeanor that charges Deeds, as a public servant, committed an act relating to her office or constituting an unauthorized exercise of her official functions, knowing that such act was unauthorized and that she did so with the intent to obtain a benefit.
She was the subject of a sealed indictment filed earlier this month and was listed on the court calendar Tuesday as “Jane Doe.” The indictment was unsealed Tuesday and a copy given to Deeds’ attorney, James Doyle of Rochester. Doyle waived reading the indictments and entered not guilty pleas on behalf of Deeds to all 10 charges.
Acting Seneca County Court Judge Daniel Doyle said pre-trial motions will be argued at 10 a.m. Dec. 10. Deeds was released on her own recognizance, with a warning from Doyle to return to court as directed and to stay in contact with her lawyer.
James Doyle asked about when he would receive answers to his request for pre-trial discovery materials from District Attorney Mark Sinkiewicz.
“At your convenience. It’s pretty voluminous, so you my want to bring a computer drive with you,” Sinkiewicz said.
Sinkiewicz announced he was fling pre-trial notices and was ready for trial. Deeds was ordered to go to the Seneca County Law Enforcement Center in Romulus to be processed, including fingerprints.
Afterwards, James Doyle said he had no comment “until I get a sense of what this is about.”
In a related case, former County Manager John Sheppard has been charged with a single count of official misconduct. He will answer that charge Nov. 6 in Waterloo Village Court.
Almost exactly a year ago, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors voted 10-4 to direct the Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation “into the management and leadership responsible for the condition of the county finances, which now require the need for an extended audit and corrective actions.”
The probe also looked into possible malfeasance and official misconduct by Sheppard and Deeds. Both resigned in the summer of 2018. Sheppard accompanied Deeds to court Tuesday.
Investigator Tim Thompson of the Sheriff’s Office was in charge of the investigation. Undersheriff John Cleere said it would be a fact-driven, evidence-based investigation that would “go where the facts take us.” He said investigators would talk to auditors from the Bonadio Co., who found the financial discrepancies.
New Finance Director Halle Stevens said the corrective plan for 2017 had 119 action items taken to clean up problems discovered in the Bonadio audit. A recent 2018 audit determined that virtually all of the issues have been resolved.
The investigative report was submitted to Sinkiewicz a few months later, and he presented it to a grand jury Jan. 17, 2019. The sealed indictment against Deeds was filed earlier this month.
Fayette Supervisor Cindy Lorenzetti led the push for the investigation in the summer and fall of 2018, despite initial reluctance by some board members. The board voted Oct. 23, 2018 to authorize the investigation.
“I want to first off thank the sheriff’s office for their time, effort and professionalism in conducting this investigation, especially investigators Thompson, Marquart and Felice,” Lorenzetti said.
She also thanked Sinkiewicz for bringing the case to the grand jury.
“The conclusion of how much this will actually cost the taxpayers of this county will not be known for months. It will be more than $150,000,” she said.
Lorenzetti said county staff, especially Emergency Management Director Melissa Taylor, deserve a public apology from both Deeds and Sheppard.
“I was first made aware of the issues from county personnel. I brought it to the board, filed [Freedom of Information requests] and got nowhere. If we as a board would have taken action when the complaints first started surfacing, we could have ended this and saved the taxpayers money and been more respectful to our county staff,” she said.
She said board members who “looked the other way” should be held responsible and urged voters to do their homework and make sure those they elect “will be your representative.”
Board Chairman Bob Shipley, R-Waterloo, declined comment, saying, “We supervisors cannot comment on this ongoing case.”