Village treasurer pleads guilty, pays fine

CHATHAM—Former Village of Chatham Treasurer Barbara Henry, 60, was convicted of attempted official misconduct for her role in the theft of village funds. She pleaded guilty to unlawfully waiving her own health insurance premiums at the village’s expense. According to a release from District Attorney Paul Czajka, this was “a benefit to which she was not entitled,” and it cost the village more than $1,000 “it did not owe.”

Ms. Henry was in court in the village on September 22 before the Town of Chatham Judge James Borgia-Forster, who also imposed a $250 fine in addition to the full restitution. Attorney Andrew Safranko of Albany represents Ms. Henry. She did not speak in court other than as part of her guilty plea.

According to a release from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office, Ms. Henry paid “$3,586 in restitution for scamming the village health insurance premiums and stealing from her other employer Cadmus Lifesharing Association.”

The state police charged Ms. Henry on March 17, 2021 with taking $4,182.37 in public funds between April 2017 and 2018 by falsely altering public records pertaining to health insurance premiums retained by the village.

Along with the charges for attempted official misconduct, she was also accused of stealing more than $8,420 in funds between October 2014 and December 2020 from CADMUS Lifesharing Association of Great Barrington, MA, a non-profit organization that cares for individuals with disabilities, where Ms. Henry also worked.

DA Czajka stated in his release that he has deferred to the Massachusetts authorities for prosecuting that matter, although Ms. Henry has paid restitution to CADMUS for thefts that occurred in Columbia County. “The NYS Comptroller discovered that theft although the victim organization had been unaware of it,” the release said.

Ms. Henry’s conviction is the result of a two-year investigation into the village’s finances.

In August of 2018, Ms. Henry resigned as treasurer after working in the village since 2012. At that time, the Village Board also announced that the state Office of the Comptroller had conducted a risk assessment review. Of the state’s review, then Mayor Tom Curran said, “They are going to make recommendations to see if we can do things better.”

Later that year, the Village Board announced that the village had not paid payroll taxes to the state since 2015 and owed over $40,000. At a December 2018 meeting, then Mayor Curran read a statement saying, “The state Taxation Department visited the village because payroll forms were not filed from the 4th quarter of 2015 through the 2nd quarter of 2018.” The village also owed the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $52,104.07 in payroll taxes for the same time period. At a December 2018 meeting, Mayor Curran statement also said, “When payroll was done in-house (2015-2018) the payroll tax withholdings were accumulated through employee withholdngs and never submitted to the taxing authority. The Comptroller and State Taxation is currently reviewing records for this time period.”

‘All of the stolen funds from Chatham have been restored…’

District Attorney Paul Czajka

In January 8, 2019, the state Comptroller’s Office and the state’s Department of Taxation and Finances, along with State Police, seized computers and files from the village office based on search warrant executed by County Judge Jonathan Nichols. Ms. Henry’s house in Chatham was also searched at that time and items were seized. The investigation remained ongoing for the next two years.

Then in 2021, chargers were announced against former village part-time Police Chief Peter Volkmann and Ms. Henry.

Mr.Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, was convicted in February of 2021 and sentenced in July as a result of the investigation into the village’s finances. According to the DA’s press release, while serving as police chief of the Village of Chatham and, earlier as police chief of the Town of Stockport, Mr. Volkmann stole $74,222 from the New York State Retirement System. He hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through a private business, PF Volkmann & Associates. He also submitted false mileage vouchers and other reimbursements to the Village of Chatham, in the amount of $18,607. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree Grand Larceny, a class E felony, and Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. In July, County Judge Richard Koweek ordered Mr. Volkmann to pay a total of $92,829 in restitution to the Village of Chatham and the state Retirement System, which he did prior to his sentencing.

“On behalf of the citizens and taxpayers of Chatham and Columbia County, I thank Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Chief Joseph Fiore and their team of investigators and auditors, as well as Sr. Inv. Eric Barnes and his State Police investigators,” DA Czajka said in the release. “I strongly believe that, if there is one arm of state government that pays for itself by discovering financial misdeeds and deterring thefts, it is this investigative unit of the Comptroller’s Office. I also note that [Village of Chatham] Mayor John Howe, although not in office while the crimes were committed, took the lead in ensuring that all village employees cooperated fully.”

The release goes on say that with Mr. Volkmann’s and Ms. Henry’s guilty pleas, “all of the stolen funds from Chatham have been restored; neither will be eligible for public office again.”

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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