Sheila M. Weaver
Warren County Commissioner of Social Services Sheila M. Weaver was arrested Friday Aug. 5 and charged with Official Misconduct, two felony counts of second-degree Forgery, and two counts of second-degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing, authorities said.
The arrests were based on incidents related to her alleged involvement in obtaining public assistance for two individuals who had recently been living in her household, and another associate, county Sheriff Bud York announced mid-afternoon Aug. 5.
Weaver, 47, lives at 1356 state Rte. 28 in Warrensburg.
County officials said that the arrest came as a shock because Weaver, during her tenure as Commissioner, had played a key role in rooting out fraudulent welfare applications, instituted new standards for employees, and worked to slash costs and consolidate the bureaucracy of the Social Services Department.
The two people who had lived in her household were also charged in the case, police said.
Earlier this week, Belinda M. Redfeather, 51, and Kenneth J. Redbird, 43, both of 425 Glen St. Apt. 85, Glens Falls, were charged in the case. Redfeather was charged with first-degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing, Petit Larceny and fifth-degree Welfare Fraud, police said. Redfeather obtained a public assistance benefit fraudulently, according to York.
Redbird was charged with first-degree Offering a False Instrument. Both were issued appearance tickets returnable at 9 a.m. Aug. 22 in Queensbury Town Court.
The investigation into the activities of the three began in June when the Warren County Sheriff's Office received a report from family members of an elderly woman who had been staying with Weaver. The complainant had voiced concern that the woman might have been taken advantage of.
Investigators then determined that Redfeather and Redbird had lived at Weaver's house, but in July had applied to Warren County Social Services for temporary Assistance to help them move into an apartment of their own, police said.
During the application process, Redfeather and Redbird failed to accurately report their household composition to employees of the county Department of Social Services -- specifically that they lived with the Commissioner, police said.
The investigation also revealed that an associate of Weaver's had applied for public assistance health benefits in January and had re-certified in June. But an investigation revealed that Weaver allegedly changed the household expense figure that the applicant had entered on the form –- and Weaver had then filed the application with her Department, authorities said.
Conducting the investigation was county Sheriff's Investigator Kevin W. Conine, the county Social Services fraud unit, and the county District Attorney's office.
Ironically, Weaver had played a key role in founding the fraud investigation unit in her department, which has uncovered dozens of fraudulent welfare applications, resulting in arrests.
County chief responds
Monday Aug. 8, Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek said that Weaver was on paid administrative leave until the status of the charges were resolved. The position pays $79,184 annually.
Besides the criminal charges, civil charges might be filed in the case, Dusek said.
Also, as an appointed county department leader with a work contract, she has a right to a hearing before county supervisors before her employment fate is determined.
She also, however, is subject to a hearing before state officials, he said.
“I have been in contact with the state Counsel’s office, and they have a right to bring charges, too — to discipline and remove her from office,” he said.
Dusek said the operations of the Social Services Department were now temporarily under the oversight of Deputy Commissioner Suzanne Wheeler.
“She’s doing a more than adequate job right now with the cooperation of employees of the Social Services department,” Dusek said.