Troy town official fired after arrest on embezzlement charge

Troy town official fired after arrest on embezzlement charge

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
| Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 12:00 pm

TROY — A Troy official was arrested Monday, accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from town funds. That night, she was fired from her job as administrative assistant to the selectmen.

Selectmen voted unanimously to terminate the employment of Cynthia P. Satas, 62, of Troy, who is also the town’s welfare administrator.

N.H. State Police arrested Satas Monday afternoon and charged her with theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, a class A felony.

While the termination affects her administrative assistant position, it doesn’t influence her job as welfare administrator because it’s an elected post and selectmen have no say over it, selectmen Chairman William T. Matson said Monday night. State Police Sgt. Shawn M. Skahan said last week the alleged theft likely occurred in Satas’ position as welfare officer.

Selectmen are seeking advice from their attorney on how to deal with Satas’ position as welfare administrator, Matson said. She has been placed on paid leave from that job.

The position is a one-year term and will be up for election in March.

Police said they believe at least $15,000 has been stolen from the town over the past several years because of Satas’ alleged misappropriation of funds.

The main focus of the investigation is Public Service of New Hampshire utility bills paid with town funds, police said.

Satas allegedly paid PSNH bills for her Richmond Road home and for rental properties she owns in Troy and Peterborough using Troy town funds, according to police. Police found that Satas used town welfare funds as far back as 2008 to pay the utility bills of people who didn’t qualify for welfare and were living at her properties in Troy and Peterborough, Skahan said.

The investigation began on Oct. 24, and on Dec. 2, State Police executed search warrants at Satas’ office at Troy Town Hall and at her home, according to police. Police said they were tipped off by a source outside the town, which Skahan said was PSNH.

The vote to fire Satas Monday night came during a nearly hour-long nonpublic session where selectmen met with Troy Police Chief David Ellis Jr. and State Police Trooper Sean A. Eaton, the officer investigating the case.

Eaton said Monday night Satas has been released on $25,000 personal recognizance, and is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 14 in 8th Circuit Court District Division in Keene.

The investigation continues, and N.H. State Police have contacted the N.H. Attorney General’s Office, he said.

With Satas no longer the town’s administrative assistant, Troy selectmen unanimously voted to form a search committee for a town administrator/administrative assistant position. They charged Troy resident Aaron K. Patt, the town administrator for Greenfield and a former Troy selectman, with forming the committee.

The committee will be charged with reviewing the applications of candidates for the position, conducting interviews and making a recommendation to the selectmen, Matson said.

The selectmen also sought advice from Patt about town office operations and positions, as board members seek to improve the town government’s internal controls. That includes looking at town policies, such as the process for disciplining an employee and reporting suspected fraud, Matson said.

“We want to examine any deficiencies that made handling a situation like this difficult,” he said. “We want to raise the bar on internal controls as we go through this process.”

In the role of administrative assistant, Satas handled bookkeeping, payroll, took the meeting minutes for the board, and was the assessing clerk, Matson said. As of last year, Satas made roughly $45,000 as administrative assistant and about $3,000 for being the town’s welfare administrator, Matson said. Satas had been on paid administrative leave prior to the selectmen’s vote Monday.

The town has an audit done annually, and Matson declined to comment on why the alleged embezzlement wasn’t discovered earlier through that process.

“That’s a question that probably should be directed to the auditor,” he said. “I’m not qualified to critique their work.”

Audits of cities and towns are aimed at making sure checks and balances are in place to ensure that money is handled properly, rather than reviewing the money itself.

Matson said that in the wake of Satas’ arrest, an audit separate from the annual review is ongoing.

In the meantime, Ellis has taken on the responsibilities of town welfare officer, and Anna Thackston has been hired to run the selectmen’s office on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the transition, Matson said. Office hours will now be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

In addition, selectmen have brought in an accountant from Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith to temporarily handle the bookkeeping and payroll. That person is paid $90 an hour.

The selectmen plan to discuss the effect the personnel changes could have on the town’s budget next week after they get the most up-to-date figures.

Selectmen had no comment about the charge brought against Satas or her arrest.

“We only have been recently informed. We haven’t had time to digest it,” Matson said.