No Charges for Former Coggon Light Plant Employees
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A State Auditor’s report that identified nearly $80,000 in improper uses of funds at the Coggon Municipal Light Plant will not result in criminal charges for two former employees there.
In a three page memo to Linn County Sheriff’s Office investigator Chad Colston, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden explains that there is “insufficient evidence” to charge former plant superintendent William Edgerly with theft charges. Essentially, Vander Sanden said, you can't charge someone with theft if you can't prove they were trying deprive someone of property through deception or deceit. In this case, the light plant was well aware of Edgerly's actions.
"I think the audit itself demonstrated (former plant superintendent William) Edgerly wasn’t trying to conceal or hide any of his activities from the Board of Trustees," Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said Wednesday. "They know the score and they treated this like a debt."
Vander Sanden explains that, not only did the light plants Board of Trustees know about the actions of Edgerly and former plant secretary Deneen Mangas, it had policies - or a lack thereof - in place that made those actions possible.
A report from the Iowa State Auditor’s Office release in February after a special investigation into the plant’s finances outlined $79,432.55 of what they deemed “improper and unsupported disbursements.” Specifically, Edgerly and Mangas were accused of collecting more than $30,000 in unauthorized vacation payouts - $27,000 went to Edgerly – and making $13,000 in personal purchases on a company credit card.
The city of Coggon started a municipal power plant 60 years ago. The plant purchases electric power wholesale and also runs diesel generators, if needed, to supply electricity to 365 customers.
Vander Sanden’s said the light plant doesn’t have a policy to address cash payouts for unused vacation, but said the Board of Trustees for the plant was aware of and approved of the payouts. A Linn County Sheriff's Office investigator interviewed a board member, who said the payouts were approved, Vander Sanden said.
"In his view, the cash payouts represented a proper disbursement from the light plant," Vander Sanden said.
Brian Sanderson, chairman of the board, did not return multiple messages seeking comment. A woman who answered the phone there Wednesday said she did not believe the board would be commenting on the matter.
Vander Sanden notes that, because the vacation payouts were documented and approved, it would be “impossible” to prove Edgerly and Mangas were trying to defraud the light plant.
The same held true for their use of the company credit card to make personal purchases. Vander Sanden said the plant actually set up two accounts for Edgerly and Mangas – one for their credit card purchases and a second to pay back those purchases. Edgerly’s pay checks indicate he had money withheld on each check to pay the balance on his company credit card.
"The board of trustees was well aware Edgerly was using the credit card for personal purchases," Vander Sanden said. "They treat it like an open, revolving line of credit; more like a debt owed to the light plant. There was no effort by Edgerly to conceal or deceive the board of trustees. In fact, the finances of the light plant were audited on a yearly basis. There is a specific account that had been established for both William Edgerly and Deneen Mangas to repay the light plant for what they had charged to the plant's credit card."
A phone number for Edgerly could not be found and he could not be reached for comment.
Vander Sanden concluded in the memo that citizens of Coggon are “rightfully angry” about the financial management of the plant. The state auditor determined the board of trustees failed to "exercise proper fiduciary oversight," the memo states and Vander Sanden said he agrees with that statement.
"I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment," he said.
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