Former Coventry treasurer Cynthia Diaz created a bank account last month to deposit three checks representing public money, prompting the bank to freeze the account and alert the town, according to Selectboard members.
Many town officials including Selectboard Chair Mike Marcotte say Diaz should never have had the checks. He said they should have been delivered to the town’s delinquent tax collector, a position from which Diaz had been booted earlier this year.
Instead the town’s former attorney, Bill Davies, handed the checks to Diaz outside the town offices May 25, according to the board. At the time, Diaz, long suspected of embezzling, was still town clerk and treasurer for the Northeast Kingdom community.
But she was ousted in June after a dozen years in office, and now the town is missing an estimated $1 million or more. The FBI is investigating.
According to scanned images, the three checks total $5,106.91 and come from the sale of several properties for back taxes. Davies was fired in early May but served as the town attorney at the time of the tax sale in 2016.
He said he gave Diaz the checks because the money was due to the town’s treasurer, not its delinquent tax collector.
But that doesn’t explain why he wrote the checks to “Cynthia Diaz Treasurer.”
Neither Davies nor Diaz returned phone calls placed Wednesday seeking comment.
Marcotte said he feared Diaz would deposit the checks into an account other than the town’s. And in mid-June, he said, she did. He said that’s also when the bank froze the account. He wouldn’t provide a specific date.
“We don’t have the particulars of what kind of bank account she opened. We don’t know that she used her own personal Social Security number to open it,” he said. “Did she use the town’s federal identification number?”
Community National Bank’s Newport branch refused to comment on the account Diaz opened. Marcotte said the town’s next move is to roll the complaint into an ongoing civil lawsuit against Diaz and ask the court to transfer the money to a town account.
In the meantime, town officials are wondering what Diaz was thinking. Criminal investigators have launched numerous probes into her since the early 2000s when she was accused of embezzling from a paving company where she’d worked. But through all of it, despite damning evidence, state prosecutors never convicted her of fraud.
Why now, when the FBI is investigating, would she do something like this?
“If you had to guess,” Selectboard member Scott Morley said, “you’d have to guess that this was just her putting her finger in your eye out the door.”
Worrying about the checks for weeks and discovering they ended up in an account the town can’t control has stressed the Selectboard, he said. And Diaz can say she never stole the money, he added, but instead insist she was only keeping it safe in an account for the town.
“She knows that there’s nothing to gain for from that, other than the satisfaction of screwing with you,” he said.
But with Cynthia Diaz, he said, who knows?