Court clerk reinstated amid Rangers probe
JOEY DAUBEN and MEGAN GRAY
The Ellis County Press
ITALY – The municipal court clerk under investigation by the Texas Rangers was back at work this week, despite numerous allegations involving financial mismanagement and her husband deleting files on city hall computers.
Susan Delephimne, under investigation by the state agency for questions about an Italy Chamber of Commerce bank account that only she controls, was put back on the job by Mayor Frank Jackson in late November. Jackson could not be reached for comment despite numerous attempts to contact him.
Delephimne’s only response: "…allegations…sorry Megan [Gray, Ellis County Press reporter] I’m at work. Bye-Bye."
Delephimne’s husband Victor, who serves as a member of Italy’s board of adjustments and recently applied for a then-vacant city council position, is also under a slew of allegations from a city vendor that he was allowed access to Italy City Hall "late at night" and had deleted crucial files on city computers. The Delephimne’s were instructed not to speak with the media, according to Italy-based NeoTrib.com.
An invoice for $200 was submitted to the City of Italy for the work to repair the computers Delephimne was alleged to have reformatted.
The Delephimne’s were also alleged to have taken items out of a dilapidated house belonging to longtime resident Fannie Farmer, who recently died, and resold them to residents in the city.
In an arrangement with Farmer’s nephew, the city’s historical commission and chamber of commerce were to take the house – which had run afoul of multiple code violations and was in deteriorating condition – to demolish it, and then turn it into a park for the late town icon, according to a police report and multiple conversations with current and former Italy officials.
However, despite numerous meetings with Delephimne and the mayor, the nephew was being sent delinquent tax notices and was told that his aunt’s belongings were going to be put in a storage area of Susan Delephimne’s choosing.
"As part of the deal Susan was going to remove all of Mrs. Farmer’s possessions to a storage area and she would contact him when she was finished," stated the contents of a police report filed by the city vendor. "Mr. Farmer would then sort the items taking family heirlooms and donating the rest to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Susan was going to organize the home being removed at no expense to Mr. Farmer. All the citations would be dismissed."
Farmer told city officials he was still waiting for paperwork to show the transfer had been made to the city’s name.
Farmer had then visited the city vendor that worked on the city hall computers to identify the items from his aunt’s house that were being sold.
On Oct. 10, the police report states, bank records obtained from the Italy Chamber of Commerce account showed a $260 cancelled check made out to a local resident who owns a lawn business in Italy.
"I met with [Kenny] Clark and [asked] him about the check from [Italy’s chamber]. He stated he was hired by Victor and Susan Delephimne. Mr. Clark stated that the charge for the Farmer house cleanup was [$200] and the [$60] charge was for lawn services at the Delephimne’s rental property on Poplar Street (Wyatt house.)"
According to research the city vendor – who filed the now-public police report – did with the Secretary of State’s corporation division, the Italy Chamber of Commerce lost its non-profit status in August of 2007.
The police report also alleges in a video reportedly taken by NeoTribune.com owner David South Jr. that Victor Delephimne said the Farmer house "is a private matter between David Farmer and myself, it is none of [the chamber’s] business."
The allegations were brought forth by numerous city officials and taxpayers alike, but the investigation into Delephimne wasn’t announced until The Ellis County Press reported about the misuse of hotel/motel tax funds for downtown street lamps in September.
At the time, the mayor said the money was "being put back where it belongs" while also praising the "beautiful" street lamps.
The city’s economic development corporation, which collects sales taxes to promote tourism to the city, also sits in violation of state law because the articles of incorporation were never filed.
As a city entity, the EDC must pay the state at least $5,000 to be reinstated.