Cooleemee clerk fired; embezzlement investigation begins

Published 4:21 pm Monday, August 14, 2023

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Aaron Thies has been fired as Cooleemee’s town clerk, accused of embezzling more than $250,000 from the town’s coffers since he took the job in 2021.

The criminal case in being investigated by the Davie County Sheriff’s Office and the SBI, but a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the town by attorney, Brandy Koontz, spells out some of the claims against Thies. The court ordered on Monday that Thies refrain from liquidating any of the money or assets believed to have been taken from the town.

Thies was terminated from his job in early August, when members of the town board voted unanimously for the termination after learning in closed session about some of the alleged misdoings. The same board voted last week for Steven Corriher, a former clerk, to take over the job.

The civil suit says that on July 31, Mayor Jessica Almond learned from a member of the community that Thies had been paid an unapproved $4,000 bonus. The investigation began.

“They discovered that the defendant had committed massive and fraudulent embezzlement schemes over the course of his employment,” according to the lawsuit.

Other findings claimed by the lawsuit:

• While it is town policy for two signatures on every check, many had only Thies’ signature.

• He would claim “legitimate” expenses to the mayor, then later write a check to himself.

• He manipulated data in the town’s books, as well as in a payroll software program.

• He altered statements and receipts.

When questions were brought up in the spring, Thies had falsely claimed that a software crash had caused the problems, the lawsuit said.

“He repeatedly abused his position of trust and responsibility to engage in an ongoing clandestine scheme to embezzle funds from the Town of Cooleemee and secretly convert such funds to his own use, benefit and enjoyment.”

The suit also claims that during his employment, Thies used the funds to help pay off his college debt, pay off a vehicle and buy a Chevrolet Tahoe and a Ski-Do and trailer. He has also went on numerous vacations, it said.

Thies also asked friends to help him conceal up to $15,000, it said.