Riggins trial heads into third day

Courtroom in which Velvet Riggins trial is being held. / Colby Gallagher

Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins' trial entered it's third day Wednesday morning.

The trial reconvened and Dougherty County School System Assistant Chief of Police J.C. Phillips testified to both the prosecutor and defense. Their questions were on the specifics regarding the paperwork and application for the free lunch program. He talked about what the investigation entailed and policy matters. He saw an income difference and that there was a change in the household and income amount.

After a recess, the next witness called to the stand was former director of child nutrition services for Dougherty County Schools Vanessa Hayes. They asked her about the free and reduced lunch guidelines and who sets these rules. She responded that the United States Department of Agriculture sets these rules. One of the policies is that if the application isn't complete, it wouldn't be processed. Things that make it incomplete include no name, salary, or salary frequency listed. She stated that you are allowed to leave blanks if the salary amount or frequency is filled in. This application was processed because it was considered a complete application. If it was incomplete, they try to reach parents within 10 days.

On 2011-2012 school year Riggins' application, all that was mentioned under other income was girl scouts which was flagged with a question mark and should have not been processed.

Following the investigation, the Dougherty County Board of Education chose to not renew Hayes as director of child nutrition services and she is now director of child nutrition services in Tift County.

After a recess, Eva Holiday was called to the stand. Holiday is with the Dougherty County School nutrition direction. She is the clerk that took applications and processed them. She testified that on the the first application in question Sep 20th application, she had marked the question marks because she did not know why riggins put her under the persons of household twice one with income and one without. Everything that was needed to process the application was listed and tried to call but recieved no answer but went ahead and processed.

They played a tape of her investigation interview and asked if she had talked to Mrs. Riggins. She replied no during her interview tape and asked she she said that. Holiday responded that she could not recall.

Vickie Warner was then called to the stand. She is the human resource director of Girl Scouts. They pulled into documentation the W2 and payroll periods for Girl Scouts. She was then able to verify the documents.

Next up on the witness stand was Kenneth Dyer, executive directer of finances for DCSS. They asked him specifics for how the USDA policies work. They gave the prices for the lunches $1.50, .40 cents for reduced and free. Kids that use that free or reduced lunch are reimbursed for everyday that lunches are bought. The defense attorney asked if there was a mistake and a person was qualified for something they wouldn't be, would they be reimbursed. Dyer answered yes.

Melissa Gass with the division child support services was next. She ensures that court ordered child support payments are being made. Paperwork about Velvet Riggins' children was brought forth and identified in terms of money Riggins received monthly.

Africa Johns was the final witness of the day. She is the cafeteria manager for Albany High School. They asked if she knew Velvet Riggins' children. Johns knew one of Riggins' children that formerly attended the high school. She testified that the child receieved reduced free lunch for three year and the beginning of her senior year was reduced also. However, an application was resubmitted and her lunches became free.

The court expects to start defense witnesses Thursday afternoon.

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