The FBI is investigating Ballard County Judge Executive Vicki Viniard. Ballard County leaders say they were expecting charges against the county's former treasurer, but were surprised when agents asked for records with Viniard's signature.
Former treasurer Belinda Foster is being investigated in connection to possible mismanagement of an estimated $900,000 of county money.
We do not know what investigators are looking for, just that it's in connection with Belinda Foster. Viniard has retained an attorney. This is after earlier this week Viniard announced she was considering resigning. She announced Friday that she has decided not to resign.
In a statement you can read at the link above, Viniard says she's “cooperated and worked with state and federal agencies and their investigations to respond to or address losses, audit findings, and other problems.”
But Viniard mentions in the statement she also plans to appoint more help in overseeing the county.
Former Ballard County Sheriff Todd Cooper wants to serve the public again. Viniard plans to appoint him as a deputy judge executive.
“My main goal is to try to build bridges and mend fences," Cooper says.
Cooper says his main responsibility will be helping the judge executive. “She wants to get back to big picture thinking and planning for the community and wants me to help with day to day operations," he said.
As for the problems a federal investigation could bring, Cooper says: “We’re not going to worry about that until it comes, if it comes at all.”
But with businesses leaving town and industries closing down, county leaders say money in the county is tight.
County Attorney Vicki Hayden says between the FBI asking for more documents for its investigation and the county's precarious financial situation, she sees where Cooper could be an asset. “I can't imagine a better selection," she says. "He’s a good man, a man of integrity.”
But, she says she wonders where the county could find the money to pay him. “Hopefully Vickie will have a good suggestion for the court and they can get it all worked out," Hayden says.
Cooper says his goal is to serve his county again. “You have to get back together and work it out for the better of the community," he says.
Cooper has not been appointed as the deputy judge executive yet. Viniard will have to make the appointment before the fiscal court later this month. The fiscal court would then be tasked with deciding a salary.
The last time Ballard County had a deputy judge executive was in 2000. That deputy judge was paid $32,000 a year.
The judge executive does have the power to appoint a deputy judge executive. The fiscal court does not have to approve the appointment.
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