In 2011, VRE looked into an unrelated possible contracting problem. The agency’s 2011 financial audit states that “we have no knowledge of fraud or suspected fraud involving VRE.” But a handwritten note underneath adds, “with the exception of the items discussed in the conversation on 11/15/11,” according to the audit.
In that instance, auditors learned that a VRE employee had set up a company before his arrival at VRE, and they had questions about whether the company was involved with the agency, according to a Dec. 16 letter to board members from Zehner, who stepped down in July.
Zehner wrote that he looked into the situation and found that the employee had not used his company or his position at VRE improperly. “A review of all VRE contracts did not reveal any business relationship between the VRE and the employee’s business,” Zehner wrote.
However, Howe and Susan Stimpson, a board member from Stafford County, said they asked for an independent review, which was not conducted. “It needed to be an outside entity . . . so there was no concern of conflict of interest,” Howe said. “I still feel the same way.”
VRE officials placed a copy of the audit online without the handwritten note. Stimpson said she plans to ask about the omission at the board’s Friday meeting, as well as get assurances that the suspected fraud was looked into properly.
“We haven’t let this go for a year,” Stimpson said.
As the board continues its search for a new CEO and the organization heads into its next audit cycle, Stimpson said she wants to ensure the resolution of past issues.
“I’m working toward having an open, responsible and accountable process,” she said. “There may be an explanation, but I have questions I want answered.”