Review clears Coal Grove clerk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2008

COAL GROVE — An outside review of the credit card mix-up concerning the Village of Coal Grove and its clerk-treasurer Debbie Fields has exonerated the village official and shown it to be a misuse of terms, not funds.

That is according to a review by Ironton accountant Robert Delawder, as well as the council, according to Nick Miller, councilman and chair of the finance committee.

The Village of Coal Grove never had its own credit card with Sam’s Club, the discount store in South Point. Instead it had a business membership through which village employees could join the club, paying for the membership fees with their own personal funds, according to Miller.

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The membership had been opened around 2001, Miller said. Sometime after Fields became clerk in 2004, she joined Sam’s Club through the village’s membership, paying her own fee herself.

At one point, she was offered her own line of credit, which she paid for with her own money.

“While she was going through the (checkout) line, Debbie told us this, they said you are eligible for a personal line of credit, would you like to do that,” Miller said. “That is how she started a personal line of credit. She continued to use the personal line of credit until the late payment occurred. … For some reason, it slipped her mind. She was late on a payment and that is how it all started.”

When the late payment occurred, Sam’s Club contacted the former village clerk who had opened the membership.

“Seeing that there could be a look of impropriety,” Miller said, Fields then explained the situation to council.

There was never a credit card for the village of Coal Grove at Sam’s Club.

“If we want to apply for credit, we have to pass a resolution,” Miller said. “There was never a resolution to ask for credit for the Village of Coal Grove.”

Because of this mix-up, Miller said the village council will reconsider its relationship with Sam’s Club at its July meeting.

“Just for the potential of future problems, we are going to consider canceling our affiliation through the village with Sam’s,” Miller said.

“We feel like it has been settled. The worst thing is Debbie Fields has been smeared in the public for something that never happened,” the councilman said. “We feel like she hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Calls made Wednesday morning to Fields at the village office and to her cellular phone were not returned by press time.