LEWISBURG, W.Va. – A former Greenbrier County commissioner tells MetroNews she was not expecting to be charged with a misdemeanor crime for voting in favor of a $1.3 million allocation for New River Community and Technical College, while still in office, back in 2012.
“I’m rather surprised because we followed the advice of our prosecuting attorney who said, in a letter that we received in 2010 when we made the agreement with the college, that he saw no law that would prevent us from renovating the pool and the property of the college,” Betty Crookshanks said.
Earlier this week, a Greenbrier County grand jury indicted both Crookshanks and Karen Lobban, the current president of the Greenbrier County Commission, on misdemeanor charges. They’re accused of misappropriating the money that was collected through Greenbrier County’s hotel-motel tax with a 2-1 vote in Dec. 2012 in favor of the allocation.
That money was to be used for renovation work at the swimming pool, also called “an aquatic center,” at New River Community and Technical College. The indictments alleged funding that project with hotel-motel tax money is “not authorized by law.”
Special Prosecutor Eugene Simmons, Pocahontas County’s prosecuting attorney, said the hotel-motel tax is allowed to be used for specified expenditures only, mostly having to do with tourism.
Crookshanks said she believes she did nothing illegal.
“We did it to promote tourism. That’s what that money’s used for and there’s a section in that law and the section they’re referring to is talking about ‘recreational.’ Some things for tourism is recreational and, of course, the pool is recreational and also there are other things involved in it,” she said Friday.
“We followed the advice of our prosecutor who was our lawyer at the time.”
The Greenbrier County Commission had entered into a lease with New River for the aquatic center project, located at New River’s Greenbrier Valley campus in Lewisburg, in 2010. However, it is not a county-owned facility.
At this point, New River Community and Technical College has returned $300,000 of the allocation following a request for a return of the funds. The remaining $1 million is the subject of civil litigation.