Recently embattled Robert Lee mayor, Allyson Crenshaw, was arrested by the Coke County Sheriff’s office after an investigation into her spending public funds on personal items. Crenshaw, 40, is accused of theft using the city’s credit card to purchase up to $7,500 in items.
One report accused Crenshaw of using the city credit card for a total of $29,339.10 in personal items. Coke County sheriff Wayne McCutchen investigated the allegations. Mayor Pro Tem Roger Alexander wrote a letter to The Observer/Enterprise newspaper in February, in which he accused Mayor Allyson Crenshaw, PhD, of using $109,431.01 from the city for personal expenses.
Crenshaw was elected mayor in May of 2018 as there was a changing of the guard in many positions, both elected and appointed. The Robert Lee city council had other new members elected in May of 2018 when Crenshaw was elected. A new city secretary, Crystal Blevins, had also been appointed. The previous city secretary had been removed by the city council and was subsequently investigated by the Coke County Sheriff’s Office. A charge of “Abuse of Official Capacity” was reportedly handed down by the grand jury with the case resolved with deferred adjudication. The city also added a new city superintendent, Billy Williams, who had previously served on the city council, completing a changing-of-the-guard.
It was revealed at the city council meeting on January 14th, 2019, that with all of about 7 months in office for Crenshaw, “as of January 7th, 2019, the city secretary had not received invoices for over $10,000 worth of purchases made an individual’s personal Amazon account.” The individual was later revealed to be mayor Crenshaw. It was also stated that the missing funds issue was first noticed in December of 2018 when Crenshaw paid her personal electric bill with a debit card. It wasn’t up until that point that the city council says that they were aware of any City debit cards.
The city has said that they have not been reimbursed for all of the purchases charged by the mayor to her personal account. The Coke County sheriff’s Office did not begin an investigation at that time but has since initiated an investigation.
It was reported that at the January 29th council meeting, a motion was made by Mayor Pro Tem Roger Alexander to restrict Crenshaw from city hall except for the lobby area during working hours. Then at a special city council meeting on February 4th, 2019, the council went into executive session. Blevins and Williams were not included in the session. City Attorney Jeff Betty was not present. A strange twist was added to the entire situation when council members Roger Alexander and Janie Munoz exited the executive session and stated that they were resigning from the city council, effective immediately.
Alexander also states in his letter to the Observer/Enterprise, “1. In August 2018 the Mayor’s personal electric bill was PAID from the City General Fund Bank Account. This was brought to the Mayor’s attention in early December 2018. She repaid the City for this and 15 other charges in January 2019. The Mayor, through a letter to Council that was not dated or signed, stated that she discovered the problem with the City debit card in September. However she did not repay the City until after the Auditor advised her of the problem. Then it was about two weeks after she was notified that she repaid the City for her electric bill.
2. On October 20, 2018, a purchase was made of voice recognition software, microphone, and a scanner from Best Buy for $676.93. As far as staff knows this is not being used at City Hall. This was never discussed or approved by Council.
3. On June 21, 2018, a smartwatch (sic) and accessories was (sic) purchased from Amazon.com for $735.95. The Mayor states that she returned it within 30 days and the credit should be on the Bank Statement. The credits that were found on the Bank Statement are $71.34 on July 5, $196.00 on July 18, and $75.72 on July 19. We do not have receipts for these so we do not know if they are related to the smart watch purchase or not. This was never discussed or approved by City Council. Due to City Staff being aware on these irregularities, tensions have arisen between the Mayor and City Staff. Prior to the Council Meeting of January 14, 2019, the Mayor met with the City Attorney Jeff Betty and Mayor Pro Tem Roger Alexander. The City Attorney advised the Mayor that she should turn in all City equipment and only be at City Hall during normal business hours until the debit card problems could be investigated. The Mayor agreed to this arrangement.” With Alexander being the Mayor Pro Tem at the time he resigned, Brandi Brosh was appointed to fill the position.
Crenshaw gave a statement to the Observer-Enterprise explaining, in her own words, what had happened. In the statement Crenshaw said that the Robert Lee city debit card was unknowingly set to her personal digital Amazon orders on August 6th, 2018. Crenshaw says that it was switched to her personal card on September 18th. Her statement says that she didn’t know about this until December. Another charge she addresses is an electric bill of approximately $250. She blamed that one on Amazon Alexa’s home automation system. According to the records there were 15 orders over $100 that had been charged to the card.
Theft in an amount between $2,500 and $30,000 is a State Jail Felony, punishable by up to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $20,000.