LUFKIN -- Walter Diggles along with his wife Rosie and daughter Anita were found guilty Thursday on all charges stemming from a conspiracy to divert federal funds intended for hurricane victims to their own use or groups with which they were affiliated.
Diggles, 64, the former executive director of the Jasper-based Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), helped oversee the disbursement of a number of federal grants intended to help a 12-county region served by DETCOG, which includes Tyler County.
The federal jury found all three Diggles guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Walter Diggles was found guilty on a total of 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of stealing federal funds and three counts of money laundering. His wife, Rosie, was found guilty of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. His daughter, Anita was found guilty of one count of wire fraud
Sentencing by Judge Ron Clark will be held in four to six months. The three could be facing up to 30 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.
Closing arguments in the eight-day long trial were held Thursday in the federal courthouse in Lufkin in a case that began in March 2014 when FBI and other federal officers executed search warrants at the DETCOG headquarters, the Diggles residence and the New Lighthouse Church of God in Christ in Jasper where Diggles served as the pastor.
A federal indictment charging the three family members was handed down in Beaumont in December 2015
According to evidence presented during the trial, Diggles defrauded federal authorities by inflating the amount the Deep East Texas Foundation needed for social service programs. Diggles was listed as the "registered agent" for that foundation.
He received about $4.4 million from 2007 to 2012 through federal Social Services Block Grant funds. Of that, $1.3 million was spent on personal expenses, such as transportation, funeral expenses and church rent.
Prosecutors said members of the New Lighthouse Church operated an after-school program, and that Rosie and Anita Diggles prepared documents and reimbursement packets to request funds in support of the learning center.
The ag building, which has been rebult since it was destroyed by a fire last summer, is scheduled to be completed for the opening of school on August 28. (Photo by Chris Edwards)
By Lew Vail
CORRIGAN -- The Corrigan-Camden School Board conducted a budget workshop prior to Tuesday night's meeting, with Superintendent Sherry Hughes reviewing the figures from the 2016-17 year.
She noted auditors are currently working on the official audit now, but the information now available shows the district to be in a good financial position with fund balances to cover three months of operation without any funds coming in. The tax collection was at 88.5 percent for the year. Enrollment was down during the past school year, with the year starting with 909 and ending with 848 students. Thus far, early enrolment is not predicting any significant increase.
With school funding still an issue and the legislature in special session, the board scheduled another workshop to be held prior to the Aug. 21 meeting.
When the regular meeting was called to order, Hughes reviewed the work completed with the bond funds and said there is a rather large punch list of items needing either completion or adjustment. The ag building is scheduled to be complete for the opening of school on Aug. 28.
In review of the utility expenses, Hughes reported that the district would drill a water well to provide for the athletic fields. The water expense using city water still is excessive. The district purchased fuel for the bus fleet, diesel still being the best fuel for buses.
Hughes also reported they have purchased two new buses, one specifically for the away events. The reason for the two was that buses delivered after Sept. 1, will have seatbelts. Having one come next year would present a problem as to who rode in the bus with the belts. The board now has time to evaluate what to do about the issue before it develops.
The principals of the three schools — elementary, junior high and senior high — essentially establish the student handbook, and are considering some changes for the coming term. One would be to allow facial hair. The board's primarily reaction was not in favor of this change, however, the spokesperson for the principals said it has become an issue more because neighboring district, Chester ISD, allows students to have facial hair.
Hughes said she polled the schools in the area and the policy varies.
There was also discussion regarding tattoos. They are considering easing the current "not shown" to allow them to be visible with the exception of those that are obscene, vulgar, threatening, involve gang signs or are offensive. The explanation is that times are changing; the new sports stars have body art on all parts of their body, movie personalities also sport visible artwork. If parents permit it, it should not cause a child to go to suspension or be fined for having visible tattoos. The official wording of these changes will be printed for student clarification when the handbook is distributed, on the school website, available at www.ccisdtx.net.
School will start with a new food service director, Debbie Huesae — call her Miss Debbie — who brings 20-plus years of experience in cafeteria management to the position. The same company is still operating the cafeteria, there is just a new face in management.
In reviewing the budget for the coming year, Hughes said the retirement of teachers and realignment of some classes appears to have helped reduce the proposed 20117-18 budget by close to $100,000. The board will work with a figure of $3,931,201, based on a projected student body of 800 (240 high schoolers). There is a $50,000 contingency fund for major issues, and one teacher's salary, which is not assigned, as a backup if anything occurs.
The board tabled reading of updates to the local police, educational material, and accepted the minutes of the June's meeting. The consent agenda covered the 4-H resolution, making it a sanctioned program under the "no pass, no play" rule. They also accepted grant funds for Texas Virtual Rural School Network. They approved a contract with Linebarger, Goggin, Blair, and Sampson for tax collection; the fees are covered in the state penalties for late payment. They renewed the workers compensating insurance for 2017-18.
The district has agreements for Big Sandy and Goodrich to use the DAEP building on a cooperative program. Each district will furnish transportation for their students and share the cost of the facility; which is owned by C-CISD.
LIVINGSTON – Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones Burks, 44, of Corrigan and her 13-year-old nephew were taken by medical helicopter to Houston's Hermann Hospital Friday following a single car accident on U.S. 59 north of Livingston.
According to reports, Burks was driving a white Chevrolet Equinox north on U.S. 59 just north of the Livingston city limits when the vehicle left the roadway shortly after 10 p.m. The vehicle entered the center median of the highway and rolled over onto the passenger side door.
Members of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department used extraction equipment to remove Burks from the wreck.
Traffic on the north bound lanes of the highway were partially blocked by the investigation and all traffic on the south bound side was shut down while the medical helicopter landed and picked up the two injured patients.
This is the second vehicle accident reported involving Burks in the past four months. On April 7, she was arrested in connection with a hit-and-run accident in which a white sports utility vehicle struck a parked car and mailbox in the 300 block of Polk Street in Livingston. Burks later surrendered to Livingston police. No injuries were reported in that mishap.
CORRIGAN -- Certificates of appreciation from Corrigan Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson were awarded last week to Ariel and Albert Richards, recognizing them for the assistance they provided to an injured citizen during a recent mobile veterinary clinic in Corrigan.
The two were recognized during the Corrigan City Council meeting and were cited for rendering aid until emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene. Gibson thanked them for their quick actions and remarked that this is a good example of citizens working together.
In other meeting business, City Manager Darrian Hudman presented information regarding the proposed purchase of property adjourning the current sewer plant on East Ben Franklin Street. He noted there are two tracts, one valued at $5,504 and the second at $1,412. Council voted to offer those bids to owners and have Hudman report the answers next month.
Council also voted to retain the accounting firm of Gollob, Morgan and Peddy, LLC, to complete the 2017 audit. No estimate of cost was discussed.
Police Chief Darrell Gibson reported the department made 40 arrests during June, issued 1,329 citations, answered 208 calls for service and made 1,542 building checks. Corrigan officers worked 22 cases and forwarded five to the Polk County District Attorney's Office for prosecution. There were five accidents in the city limits with no fatalities.
The Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department's report indicated firefighters responded to 10 calls consisting of three automobile accidents as well as a brush fire, a vehicle fire, a jaws extraction and a report of a tree blocking a roadway.
Gibson introduced officer Johnson, a trained fireman who recently was commissioned as a peace officer and serves as an officer for the Corrigan Police Department. He has been assisting the VFD in training and located some needed fire gear, which is used but serviceable, at no cost from the Houston Fire Department.
Johnson discussed with council the needs for young men and women to volunteer for the department to support the community. He is working with the mayor to develop equipment lists for council to consider and fundraisers to help defray the cost.
Hudman also reported the city crews are working on the lift station south of town.
During items from council, they discussed the need for speed bumps on MLK south in the park area. There had been some located there, but they are now gone. Without a fence at the park, children can run out into the street for a ball or toy and be hit. Councilwoman Johnnie Brooks remarked that drainage down MLK at second and third streets is still bad during heavy downpours.
Council reviewed and accepted the financials and minutes from the June meeting.
CORRIGAN – It's almost that time of year again. Before you know it, another exciting and thrilling school year will be upon us. The shelves of stores are already filled with notebooks, pencils, pens and other supplies. Just as important as supplies are the important dates and information students – and parents – need to know.
Corrigan-Camden ISD will hold its annual "Meet the Teacher" Wednesday, August 23, from 12 (noon) until 6 o'clock p.m. on all campuses. This is a time prior to the official start of classes when students and parents are provided an opportunity to meet teachers, staff and administrators for the upcoming school year. Class supply lists and other pertinent information is also shared at this time in order to allow students to begin the year better prepared and informed about what lies ahead in the school year. On that note, there are new faces at all campuses and a few former teachers are back at C-CISD. The Primary/Elementary campus has added three to its staff: Iliana Felipe, a C-CHS graduate, fourth grade; Rusti Hall, third grade; and Caryn Sweats, Instructional Assistant. At the junior high, Kacie Dewberry, also a C-CHS graduate will be teaching sixth and seventh grade science. The high school campus staff this year includes Joey Aker, band director; Jeremy Durham, social studies and coaching staff; Eliza Watts, ELA 9th; and Kathy Narragon, Geometry and Chemistry.
The first day of school for C-CISD is Tuesday, August 29. Parents are urged to be mindful of the start times for classes. At the Primary/Elementary campus, the official school day is from 7:45 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. The school day for junior high and high school campuses is 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
According to the C-CISD school calendar, the following are holidays and other upcoming dates of note: Labor Day Holiday, Monday, September 4; Thanksgiving Break Monday, November 20-24; Holiday Break, December 18 through January 2; Spring Break March 12-16; and Good Friday, March 30. Please understand that all listed holiday and/or calendar dates are subject to change. As always, C-CISD staff will do their best to notify everyone ahead of time of any changes.
Two annual events which are fast approaching are the Jana Broxon 5K Run in Chester which is scheduled for August 26 and the Edward Pina Invitational set for September 2 in Corrigan. More information on these memorial runs will be coming soon so please watch for more information so you may plan to attend, take part, or support others who are participating for wonderful causes.
This year, the C-CISD Homecoming is slated for Friday, September 22. The Dogs will kick off against Kountze at 7:30 p.m. Remember, homecoming festivities will start prior to the game so be looking for that information as the date draws nearer.
C-CISD's Senior Night will be held Friday, November 3, at the football stadium prior to the 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Frankston. All players, band members, cheerleaders, and spirit sprinters will be honored with a special program. In the spring, remember that basketball, baseball, and softball will also observe their senior players at special home games.
For high schoolers, significant dates for students and parents include the STAAR End of Course assessment dates for 2018. Please understand that these STAAR testing dates are subject to change. According to the Texas Education Agency (www.tea.texas.gov), the 2018 "Student Assessment Calendar" indicates these dates as follows: Tuesday, April 10: English I EOC. Thursday, April 12:: English II EOC May 7-11: Algebra I EOC; Biology EOC, U.S. History EOC (NOTE: Specific dates for each have not been set at this time by the district).
Obviously, these are only a few of the events and activities planned for the school year. Please take time to check out these dates and make note of all in an effort to be better prepared for the school year. And as stated, these dates are subject to change so keep your eyes and ears peeled. The C-CISD and Times staff will do their best to keep all informed of the latest and greatest information and dates of upcoming events and activities. Also, be sure to check out the Corrigan-Camden Facebook page and the Corrigan Times Facebook page.