By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 7 — A former finance director for Page County was indicted yesterday in circuit court for “obtaining money by false pretense” while being in control of the county’s coffers several years ago.
A grand jury issued a direct indictment against Dennis Lee Click Jr. on Wednesday in Page County Circuit Court for an unclassified felony that allegedly occurred on June 21, 2017, according to several court documents. Online court records listing the charge state that the monetary amount illegally obtained was “greater than or equal to $200”, while the indictment itself lists a larger amount taken potentially over a three-year period.
“The grand jury charges that: On, about, or between the 21st day of June, 2017, and the 28th day of May, 2020, in the County of Page, Virginia, Dennis Lee Click Jr. did unlawfully and feloniously obtain, by false pretense or token, with the intent to defraud, currency belonging to Page County and valued at $1,000 or more,” the indictment reads.
The grand jury returned a “true bill” on the indictment, and Judge Clark A. Ritchie granted a motion for a capias warrant to be issued for Click’s arrest. After his arrest, bond will be determined by a magistrate. As the local commonwealth’s attorney has recused himself from the case, a special prosecutor is being brought in to represent the county. Click is being prosecuted under Virginia Code Section 18.2-178.
After previously residing in Elkton, Click now lives in Stuarts Draft. He worked for Page County as director of finance from 2017 until he was terminated on Monday, July 27, 2020 following the launch of the state police investigation. He was hired as a controller in Albemarle County’s Department of Finance and Budget on Dec. 6, 2021, where he is currently still employed.
A number of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have delayed the two-year investigation by VSP Special Agent E.D. Deel, who serves as a primary witness in the case. Page Valley News first confirmed the state police investigation and Click’s termination in August of 2020, after obtaining a copy of a Reimbursement Agreement drawn up by then-County Attorney Nathan Miller between Click and the County. The June 2 document confirms what PVN had been told by several sources — that Click allegedly took the public funds to pay for furthering his education without the County’s knowledge or approval.
“Employer has a well-established policy that any certification, credits, educational courses which an Employee desires to take must be pre-approved by the Employer in order for the course to be paid for by the Employer,” the agreement states.
“Employee entered into an educational program with Chardon State College to obtain an advanced degree. In violation of Employer’s policy, the expenses of those courses, materials and fees for the referenced educational program were billed to the Employer without Employer’s knowledge or pre-approval,” the document continues. “Employee agrees to reimburse Employer for all expenses, fees and costs in the amount of [$13,268.61] which were billed to the Employer on behalf of the Employee in violation of Employer’s policies.”
A number of details remain unclear — such as when the county discovered the act, and when the county took action. When approached by PVN about the status of the ongoing investigation in February, County Administrator Amity Moler generally gave the same response she offered in August of 2020: “It is a personnel issue and part of an ongoing investigation, therefore, I cannot comment at this time.”
Although discrepancies were discovered in the county’s monthly financial statements in May of 2020, according to several sources, Click’s employment as the county’s finance director continued through July 27, 2020. Click had reportedly been put on leave from July 22-25, 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns and possible exposure to the virus. For a period of about seven weeks prior to that, the county continued to work with Click to resolve the issue internally.
Claims of the alleged “embezzlement” only became public after Sheriff Chad Cubbage invoked the word at least four times during his appearance at the Page County Board of Supervisors’ Aug. 4, 2020 work session. After being grilled about his own budgetary practices, the sheriff stated: “How can you sit there and accuse me of mismanagement [of public funds] when there are people embezzling money in county government? That’s robbing the citizens of the county, and they were allowed to [continue] work[ing] here for weeks.”
Two days after walking out of his meeting with the board of supervisors, Sheriff Cubbage said he made those comments in open session because “I think the citizens of Page County deserve to know if there is criminal activity within the county government. He should have been put on administrative leave.”
Several sources have told PVN that county staff respected Click’s competence and was endeared by his congenial nature. That tone launched an effort to retain Click, despite his obvious infractions being made aware to county staff and each member of the board of supervisors.
As further testament to that, the June 2 agreement was drawn up by the county attorney eight weeks before Click’s termination as county finance director, and the county made an effort to seek repayment without the involvement of law enforcement.
“Employee agrees to reimburse Employer the sum of [$13,268.61] at 4 percent interest in 42 monthly payments of [$339.02] commencing on the first day of July 2020,” the reimbursement agreement reads.
Further payments were laid out in an amortization schedule attached to the agreement. The final payment was set to be made on Dec. 1, 2023.
Both the supervisors and county staff had reason to be pleased with Click’s performance prior to the allegations of misappropriated funds. In 2018, Page County earned its first of two consecutive Certificate(s) of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The award presented by the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada is considered “the highest form of recognition in government accounting and financial reporting,” according to a press release issued by the organization.
County auditors suggested applying for the award and Page County was recognized among the top counties with a population between 10,000 and 24,999 across the country. In total, about 18 percent of the more than 3,000 counties across the U.S. were recognized. Page County was rated among the top 3 percent in its population bracket, as well as being the smallest locality in the Shenandoah Valley — and the third-smallest in Virginia — to be recognized with the financial reporting award.
When Page County received the first award in 2018, Click told the Page News and Courier: “It really enshrines our goals, to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles and to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence our spirit of transparency and full disclosure.”