By Linda Cicoira — Angela Hinman “Angel” Taylor, the former Hallwood clerk who was storing town financial records in her car in 2017 when the vehicle and contents burned in a mysterious fire, was charged last week with 65 felony counts of embezzlement that involve more than $22,000.
Accusations, betrayal, missing money, death threats, family spats, and using the honor system to figure out who owes back taxes and fees are part of the drama in Hallwood since the fire.
Bond and release order forms for Taylor were filed Friday in Accomack General District Court. Taylor was arrested last Wednesday, Jan. 30. Warrants were filed with the Accomack General District Court late Tuesday and accused Taylor of setting up more than $4,400 in payments for her personal electric bills.
Taylor, 46, of Hall Street in Hallwood, was released on $5,500 bond. Carl Bundick, an Accomac attorney, was retained to defend her at an April 29 preliminary hearing. Conditions of the bond include not being allowed to leave the state; being on good behavior; refraining from possessing a firearm, destructive device, or dangerous weapon; refraining from excessive use of alcohol or illegal drugs; and maintaining or seeking employment.
“Taylor was the clerk for the town of Hallwood,” Special Agent A.W. Pittman, of the state police, wrote in the court file. “In this position she was responsible for paying the town bills, maintaining meeting minutes and other secretarial jobs. Taylor was an authorized signature on town checks and one signature was required.”
Warrants show the crimes occurred between Aug. 31, 2011, and Sept. 12, 2017. The fire occurred in early October 2017.
She returned a call Wednesday but said, “No comment,” and referred questions to her lawyer. Bundick had not called at this posting.
Mayor “John (Jackie) Poulson … reviewed the town bank records and identified numerous unauthorized checks written by Taylor,” Pittman wrote. “During the investigation, 65 transactions were identified that were determined to be unauthorized … 55 of the transactions were duplicate paychecks.”
The car fire occurred a couple of days before the financial documents were to be turned over for a long-overdue audit, town officials have reported. Taylor lives about 350 yards from the town office and mostly did the town work at her home. The fire occurred about five miles from Hallwood on Wessells Farm Road. The vehicle was hauled to a local salvage yard, crushed, and taken away before town officials found out about it, Poulson previously stated.
The monthly Hallwood town meeting Monday was relatively subdued considering the long-awaited charges had been made. Officials said they didn’t know all the details.
“I hoped for more fireworks than this, but a slow night is a good night at a town council meeting,” said Councilman Rich Selinsky.
Councilman John Smith would not comment “because I am concerned about my safety.”
The loss of the town files resulted in the inability to know who had paid real estate taxes. The officials were still struggling Monday with reconstructing their ordinances and policies because of the missing paperwork.
“They were likely in the home office with the clerk,” said Selinsky.
In June 2018, despite some town officials believing Taylor was embezzling money from municipal coffers and a police investigation being conducted into the allegations, Hallwood’s council voted to accept Taylor’s word, in the form of a notarized affidavit, that she paid a total of $3,177.26 in cash for real estate and personal property taxes in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. The panel also accepted paperwork stating she paid $642 in cash for trash pickup for four households for which she is responsible.
Taylor quit her job immediately after the blaze, leaving a note about her departure and details about the fire in the town office for officials to find. Taylor said she put the records in the car to take to the auditor in Atlantic. The fire occurred in the middle of a road.
Since the fire, Poulson and Danny Shrieves, pastor of Hallwood Baptist Church and the new clerk, have been trying to make sense of bank statements and residents’ receipts. They got three years of records from the bank. Poulson stated last summer that more than $32,000 was either paid from town coffers to Taylor (for more than her usual salary) or used to pay the electric bill for her home and at her husband’s auto business. Poulson later said about $21,000 too much was paid to her for employment.
Poulson also has complained Taylor did not return a computer the town owns. He said she told him she does not have a Hallwood-owned computer.
Taylor attended the session about her tax bill but declined to speak about the accusations and said she would call the Eastern Shore Post reporter when her name was cleared. Taylor said she was late in getting back to the town about her payments because she did not receive the notice until after the deadline.
A year ago, Taylor attended a council meeting to defend her brother, who also said he paid his taxes with cash. At that time, she said she got a notice from the town about her back bills. She attended the meeting to complain about how things were being run. She said there were obvious mistakes in a notice for delinquent taxes she received Jan. 22, and she was upset about an incident in which her brother was told he could either sign an affidavit saying he had paid her in cash for his taxes or pay again. Mayor Jackie Poulson told the brother, Travis Roughton, he could be forced to testify in court if he signed. Roughton refused and paid another $200.
“We accepted everybody else’s word,” Mayor Jackie Poulson said at last summer’s session. “We have no other choice but to take her word … we’ve got no way to say she didn’t. … We think that it started in 2012, when Tim (Raynor) was here, that Angel was taking the money. That’s what we’ve come up with so far.”
Raynor, the former mayor, was in the audience. He said two mayors before him thought Taylor was trustworthy so he signed blank checks for her to pay the bills. “No indication until recently that anything was going on,” Raynor said. “Obviously, she didn’t bring it to anyone’s attention.”
“We’re not in the criminal justice system,” Shrieves had said at that session. “We are not cops” or “investigators.” The authorities will have to ask her why she paid herself more money than she was due. “She would be allowed to defend herself,” he said.
Since the fire, Poulson has also reported the tires on his vehicle were slashed twice and someone tried to set fire to his garage. Selinsky has a protective order against Taylor’s husband, Greg Taylor. The councilman told a local judge that he and his family have been threatened by the man.
Former Hallwood Councilman James Dean told the Post that he called for an audit 10 years ago and “was
“She shouldn’t have kept those books at her house,” said Dean, who lives in Kentucky now with his family. “Angela used to record the meetings. I would request a copy. She would deny my request. She would deny my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. I was ridiculed because I accused her of cooking the books. They had council members call out sick so I wouldn’t have a quorum. It’s like the Wild West in that town,” Dean said. He moved to the Eastern Shore from Hampton Roads and even though he was on the council, he felt like an outcast.
“The place was just getting too hostile for me,” Dean continued. “We bought a farm in Kentucky and we left … I’m glad I left Hallwood, probably one of the best things I’ve done in my life.” He said he was glad they had Poulson because “he has a little bit of backbone.”
“I wasn’t allowed to see the books,” Dean said. He asked the state police to investigate. “A trooper came and got the books,” he said. Dean never got the results of that probe. I was basically told to mind my own business.”
The clerk’s stepson, Joshua Taylor, denounced her on the Post’s Facebook page.
A majority of the town council also voted Monday to re-establish a police department for the town.