Financial official at SC Hospitality Association no longer employed
Wed, 29 Feb 2012 23:55:32 GMT —
COLUMBIA, SC - A source confirms to WACH Fox that a top financial official at the South Carolina Hospitality Association no longer works for the agency.
Rachel Duncan, the association's director of accounting and membership, was informed of her termination this week. Duncan's name was first mentioned late last week when news surfaced the Secret Service was investigating hundreds of thousands in missing dollars at the agency.
Court records show Duncan is currently being foreclosed on. She also filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and has been charged three times with submitting bad checks. Duncan had no comment last Friday when approached by Fox News outside her home in Lexington.
The feds have been looking into the agency's finances for several months. They confirm CEO Tom Sponseller, who was found dead of an apparent suicide Tuesday in a downtown Columbia parking garage, was never the target of their probe. Sponseller had been missing for ten days.
The South Carolina Hospitality Association's interim director, Rick Erwin, also contracted a Columbia accounting firm to conduct an independent audit of the association's finances late last week.
"He has made sure that he has personal control over all the bank accounts and all the transactions and contributions," said association spokesman Bob McAlister. "Everything at the association is now 100 percent secure."
The hospitality association's audit is expected to be finished within a week. Sources indicate forensic auditors have already found multiple ways money was being embezzled from the agency.
Meanwhile, the public has been critical of the handling of the search for the agency's former chief executive, Sponseller. From talk on the streets, to people turning to their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, people have found a way to lash out at investigators.
Columbia police were aware of that possibility even as they announced they had found the missing CEO Tuesday.
Columbia police chief Randy Scott expressed frustration that officers did not locate Sponseller sooner, citing the "days of grief" the family had to endure, and vowed his department would learn from the experience and "do better" in the future.
Before Tuesday, three previous searches of the missing executive's office building and attached parking garage turned up nothing.
Sponseller was found in a locked double-enclosed room officers did not have access to until the day he was found. Keys were previously unavailable and the doors had to be re-keyed before authorities could gain access to the area.
On Tuesday, the interim director of the SC Hospitality Association found a suicide note police believe to be from Sponseller in a locked desk drawer in the CEO's office. Investigators were drawn back to the building by the discovery of that note.
Critics have questioned why officers did not force their way into the desk or the area where Sponseller was found during previous searches. Chief Scott explained there is a difference between a criminal investigation and a missing persons case.
"When you go into detailed searches you have to have certain probable cause," said Scott. "For some instances, what we had at that time, we didn't have that."
Scott has indicated there could be policy changes at the department and there will be a review of procedure after it took so long to locate Sponseller.