A former Cedarville treasurer being investigated for embezzling money from the city admits she has taken money and said the fault is hers alone.
Alicson Reding admitted to taking money from the City of Cedarville during her eight years as treasurer, but is not sure how much, she said. Reding resigned from her position as recorder-treasurer in early April.
Reding refused to comment on the specifics of the investigation, even now being conducted by state police and legislative auditors, for that reason, but said she takes full responsibility for her actions.
"I just want everyone to understand it is me, I’m working with [investigators] and being honest about what I did," Reding said.
Reding claims her family had nothing to do with the theft and said that "even my own husband didn’t know."
Reding’s mother, Crawford County Treasurer Beverly Pyle, said she and her husband William Pyle do not understand their daughter’s actions.
"I’m devastated," Beverly Pyle said. "As a parent I have hurt so bad, Bill and I both, because we love her and we just did not see that coming."
According to an affidavit for a search and seizure warrant that was executed by the state police, findings from a partial review by legislative auditors show that on at least one occasion, Reding used $4,973.86 of city funds to pay taxes she owed on a business.
Documents found by auditors indicate that city monies were "diverted" to Alicson Reding or her husband Brian Reding, a company owned or associated with them, or a school benefit project, claiming the payments were for actual work or products for the city when the invoices or possible work orders are either missing, have been altered or do not exist, according to the affidavit.
Cedarville Mayor Glenanna O’Mara had no idea there was an issue before the audit in April that exposed the misuse of funds, she said.
"The oversight process that has always been used is just the legislative audit, which happens every two to three years," O’Mara said. "They have never indicated that there was an issue until April 7 when they came to me, outside of the usual minor things that come up in an audit. I’m not going to say that I shouldn’t have noticed some of that."
Alicson and Brian Reding are associated with one business listed by the Arkansas secretary of state, Pyle and Reding Inc., of which they and Alicson Reding’s parents each own a quarter percent.
Pyle and Reding, Inc. is the parent company for C&C Catfish on Rena Road in Van Buren, which is run by the Redings.
Alicson Reding also ran the child’s clothing shop, Alicson’s Wonderland, which was opened and owned by her mother, for a number of years until the shop was sold about two years ago. Her husband also owned a landscaping business, she said.
Cedarville School District’s project graduation, called the Pirate Plunge, is the benefit project referred to in the affidavit. Alicson Reding was the organizer for the project until she turned it over to school officials Monday, said Cedarville Superintendent Dan Foreman.
Before Monday, Alicson Reding did all the fundraising, handling of funds and bill paying for the project, Foreman said. The school district has had no collaborative bank accounts with Reding, and merely provided transportation to the event in the past, he said.
Beverly Pyle insists that her daughter’s theft had nothing to do with the businesses she herself owned, including C&C Catfish.
While the Redings run the restaurant, Beverly Pyle said she manages all the finances personally, and a local bookkeeper handles the documentation.
"That’s the one thing I said when we took over is that I had to make sure the business was ran right," Beverly Pyle said.
Pyle’s records are "clean as a whistle," she said.
Jack McQuary, a special prosecutor who has been designated to handle the case, has not returned calls requesting comment, but Crawford County Prosecutor Marc McCune said he does not believe investigators are interested in Beverly Pyle.
"Unless it expands somewhere else, which I don’t foresee, the investigation is going to be focused on Alicson and the City of Cedarville," McCune said.
When McCune was contacted in March about the possible theft, he notified Circuit Judge Mike Medlock that it would be a conflict of interest for him to work the case, as he and his family have a close relationship with the Redings, he said.
How much money was taken by Alicson Reding is still unclear. Both Mayor O’Mara and Alicson Reding said it will be several more weeks until the audit is complete.
According to the affidavit, legislative auditors found a "schedule of payments" from the city to Alicson Reding or Brian Reding or a business associated with them from Jan. 1, 2008, to Feb. 28, 2014, that appears to total $371,906.50. It also states that neither Alicson Reding nor Brian Reding draw a salary from the city.
While neither is currently employed with the city and Alicson Reding’s position as treasurer was unpaid, Brian Reding has worked for the city in the past doing repair and construction projects.
Alicson Reding also claims some of the transactions are legitimate reimbursements after she used personal money to pay for city-related items.
O’Mara would be surprised if the final total is close to the number given in the affidavit, she said.
"If that’s so, my question would be where that money came from because I don’t think I’ve even seen that amount come through the city," O’Mara said.
Cedarville’s annual budget for all city services is about $220,000, she said. Cedarville has a population of about 1,400.
In the meantime, Cedarville city officials are working to put new financial safeguards immediately into place, including new financial software, new policies on accessing city accounts and a new financial procedure policy that will secure finances regardless of who is in office, O’Mara said.
"Whatever happens from this day forward will be a fresh, clean start for the city," O’Mara said.
Beverly Pyle said she and her husband will support their daughter in the coming months.
"I’m her mother and I love and I will always be there for her," Beverly Pyle said.
Formal charges have not been brought in the investigation, and Alicson Reding is waiting for the final tally, she said.
"I’m not going to hide, I’m not going to lie and I’m not going to run from it," Reding said.