The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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Shrimp 'n Grits

The Malony Embezzlement - a real pocket book breaker
Lee Walton

Mercy! It was hypocritical to hear J. Pericles Riley calling the formation of the Town of James Island a "cruel hoax" which would result in "pocketbook-breaking taxes." He should be saying the same thing about the actions of his close confidant and friend Danny Molony who, under the very noses of the highest officials of the City, was running an in-house scheme to embezzle almost a million dollars from the taxpayers of the City of Charleston? The final tab of this fiasco is yet to be disclosed.

Danny Molony's embezzlement scheme was the "cruel hoax" at the expense of all City taxpayers! He authorized payment of fraudulent invoices from his son's company for maintenance of City property; these services were never provided and required maintenance was neglected. He was also guilty of authorizing checks to be written to a ficticious appraisal company that he created, the Appraisal Group of Charleston, and personally deposited these City checks into his own account at South Trust Bank. This complex, fraudulent scheme was the real "pocketbook-breaker" for Charleston taxpayers.

As the City's Property Coordinator, Danny Molony served as the Senior Staff Member of the Real Estate Committee (chaired forever by Council Member Begone Evans). His office was conveniently within a spitball's shot of the Mayor's Office in City Hall. His position was unique among City Senior Staff; he reported directly to no one short of the Mayor and had carte blanche financial authority to award "no-bid" contracts for important real estate appraisals, property surveys, and service contracts for the maintenance of City property. He was placed in a position of extreme trust with essentially no accountability or oversight from the City Administration including the Mayor, the Mayor's Executive Assistants or the Chief Financial Officer. Could this have been the results of the long, close relationship between the Riley and the Molony families that was described by Council Member Larry Curly during the April 23rd City Council Meeting?

The inordinate concern for Danny Molony by the Mayor, Staff, and other Council Members is perplexing. For example, Council Member Larry Curly said sympathetically that Danny Molony would have to live with it (the embezzlement conviction) "…until the day he dies." The Mayor and City Council must remember that Danny Molony was a crook of the highest order! Molony did not just steal from them or another person or a private company; he stole from every City taxpayer. Living with the consequences of his crime is the price a convicted criminal must pay -- that's what restitution is all about.

There are many serious questions the Palter & Chatter has conveniently left unexplored and unanswered; their silence on these issues remains deafening. Not surprisingly, the Palter & Chatter consistently avoids any position of strong principle or opinion that is contrary to that of J. Pericles Riley. Instead, a fear of public controversy and political retribution pervades their editorial staff. One would think their journalist, "1st Amendment" obligation to their readers would compel them to investigate and pursue the following questions:

Why did the Mayor seek to eliminate the position of Internal Auditor while the embezzlement was ongoing? It was the Internal Auditor who ultimately discovered the financial irregularities that disclosed the Molony embezzlement. Oddly, the City no longer employs this individual.

Why did the Mayor resist instituting the financial checks and balances recommended year after year by the City's External Auditors? These much needed policies and procedures were only adopted after the Molony embezzlement was discovered.

Why were hundreds of checks written by the Financial Department to the ficticious "Appraisal Group of Charleston" then handed personally to Danny Molony? Why were careless, insufficient financial procedures, that facilitated this embezzlement, maintained year after year without suspicion, question or inquiry from the CFO or his staff?

Why did South Trust Bank agree to a civil settlement of $186,000? Should the City have pursued civil or criminal litigation to recover considerably more? Why were the terms of the Bank's settlement never publicly disclosed?

Why was Molony family commercial property (the former Credit Bureau Building on Hasell Street) rented as office space by the City for the South Carolina Aquarium? Did Danny Molony represent his family, the South Carolina Aquarium or the City in this transaction?

Was the missing "hard drive" on Danny Molony's City computer ever found? How did it disappear apparently before Molony was confronted and locked out of his office? Was he given a "heads up" by an "unnamed co-conspirator"? Were any other of the "unnamed co-conspirators" that were mentioned in the criminal action against the Molonys ever identified?

How much public money will this "pocketbook-breaker" ultimately cost the taxpayers? How much were the court fees? How much did it cost for the internal and external legal and accounting investigations to quantify the extent of the embezzlement? What was the cost of City Staff productivity devoted to the investigation? How much did the City lose from the ficticious appraisals on City properties? How much will neglected maintenance of City properties cost? How much more money will be spent in the ongoing efforts to recover any additional funds embezzled by Danny and Mark Molony?

The Molony embezzlement places a dark, indelible stain on the Mayor's Administration that cannot be covered-up or scrubbed away until full disclosure of all facts and findings are forthcoming. The credibility of the City Administration remains in question; a consequence that Pericles should expect when hiring friends and political cronies.