August 28, 2013 | 09:08 AM
Two former Palmyra officials who were both charged with Class D felony charges of official misconduct and welfare fraud entered into pre-trial diversion programs and had their charges dismissed last week.
Former Palmyra clerk-treasurer Tiffany Cardwell and former town manager Cheri Banet, who were indicted by a grand jury in November 2012, will each pay a $330 enrollment fee to enter the program. Prosecutors can re-file the charges within 12 months.
In exchange, Cardwell and Banet agreed to testify against Palmyra town council president Virginia (Jenny) Kirkham, town council member Paul Eveslage and Kirkham's husband, Ron Byerly, in their cases of felony welfare fraud. Kirkham and Eveslage are also charged with felony official misconduct.
According to court documents, Kirkham allegedly failed to disclose income earned from cleaning services for the Town of Palmyra and beautician work completed out of her home when applying for and receiving unemployment benefit payments which resulted in an overpayment of more than $2,500. The alleged actions took place between Jan. 17, 2011, and April 3, 2012.
Cardwell was named in the indictment because she allegedly wrote checks to Byerly for work she knew he did not perform so that income earned did not have to be reported by Kirkham. Eveslage was named because he approved the claims to pay Byerly. Banet was named because she was the town manager at the time.
"(Banet and Cardwell) agreed to enter the program and will give incriminating testimony against their former co-defendants in this case," Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said. "They were both really pawns in the entire scheme and they had the least culpability in the matter. Harrison County should be pleased with this outcome, especially in return for evidence."
Schalk also pointed out that Cardwell resigned her position as a result of the investigation. Banet was later dismissed by the town council.
"These were good people caught up in a bad situation," Schalk said.
Town council member Alvin Brown reported what was going on to the state board of accounts. As the person who reported the wrongdoing, Brown was not indicted even though he approved the claims as they were presented to the board.