Chilton County Commission suspects no wrongdoing here by former administrator

Published 12:40 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

The Chilton County Commission placed now former county administrator Crista Madden, 48, on paid administrative leave during an emergency meeting held March 1.

The decision came after the state attorney general’s office contacted Commission Chairman Allen Caton to let his office know Madden was under investigation for crimes committed during her 25-year tenure in Franklin County, including time in the same role there.

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced March 19 that Madden was convicted of two felony ethics law violations involving $753,889 of Franklin County funds. Madden pleaded guilty in Franklin County Circuit Court.

The question then became did Madden commit any similar crimes during the six months she spent here in Chilton County?

According to Caton, there is “no suspicion” that Madden was able to perform the same criminal acts here.

“The attorney general’s office will have people do an audit for us covering the time she started here until the time she left, but we don’t feel like she has done anything here,” he said.

Madden was arrested and pleaded guilty in Franklin County to one count of Use of Official Position for Personal Gain and one count of Use of Equipment for Personal Gain. The plea was taken in front of specially appointed Circuit Judge Pride Tompkins.

According to the attorney general’s office, in December of 2007 Madden began a scheme by which she generated false records of checks and then made the originals payable to herself. She would create a false purchase order for a fictitious vendor and generate a check payable to that company.

Before printing the check, she placed a strip of tape on the paper where the name for payee would be printed.

For county records, she would make a copy of the check that showed the company name. She then removed the tape from the original and reprinted the check with her own name listed as payee. The check was then deposited into her personal account.

She continued this scheme until she left the position in July of 2017, depositing a total of $753,889 in various private bank accounts that she held.

The matter was discovered in an audit by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and investigated by special agents of the attorney general’s office. After being confronted by special agents, Madden gave a full confession to both offenses.

Caton said that the responsibilities of the county administrator with the Chilton County Commission differed from those Madden had in Franklin County in the same role.

“The division of labor in our office likely prevented [Madden] from doing the same thing here,” he said. “During her time here she did not handle the same accounts. She wasn’t over the vendors here. We have people that make deposits and pay vendors. She was over [those people]; she didn’t make any of our deposits.”

Madden submitted a letter of resignation to the Chilton County Commission on March 15. According to Caton, the commission voted during its meeting March 19 to accept applications for a new county administrator for 30 days.

For now, assistant administrator Denise Hafer has stepped into the role on an interim basis. Caton says she is doing a “good job.”

News of the investigation into Madden’s actions was unexpected, according to Caton.

“It was surprising for us,” he said. “She seemed like a perfect fit for us. She left us in better shape than she found us in.”

Madden faces a penalty of two to 20 years for each of the class B felonies and is required to pay full restitution to Franklin County.