Embezzler sentenced, fatal fire, CAT app, “Dumler” bill: News briefs

Charlottesville Area Transit is unrolling a new free app on March 1 allowing users to track buses in real time one their smartphones. Photo: Elli Williams Charlottesville Area Transit is unrolling a new free app on March 1 allowing users to track buses in real time one their smartphones. Photo: Elli Williams

Hollymead embezzler sentenced

The county woman who pleaded guilty in October to embezzling more than $73,000 from the Hollymead Citizens Association will serve 15 days in jail for her crime, according to reports from NBC29 and The Daily Progress. The rest of her five-year sentence was suspended.

Patricia Cuthbert, who served as the treasurer of the neighborhood association between 2008 and 2012, was caught when a January 2013 audit revealed tens of thousands in unauthorized charges on the organization’s books. She initially admitted to stealing some $25,000, but according to The Daily Progress, she has since returned the entire missing amount.

Other members of the Citizens Association board initially tried to keep the discovery of the missing funds and the subsequent audit quiet, residents told C-VILLE last September, but when word of the theft got out, a resident called police to report it as a crime. The handling of the incident sparked outcry and calls for greater transparency in how the neighborhood association is governed.

Cuthbert will start serving her jail sentence on January 29.

Keswick house fire claims three lives

A mother and two children were killed in an early morning house fire in Keswick on Saturday, January 18.

According to various news accounts, the fire was discovered at around 1:30am when the father arrived home from work to the two-story duplex on Carriage Hill Farms just off Route 250 and spotted flames on the second floor, where his family was sleeping. Newsplex reported that he and the occupants of the downstairs unit, a couple and their child who escaped the blaze, attempted to reach the victims with a ladder but were unable to do so because of excessive heat and smoke. An elementary school-aged boy was pulled from the blaze and declared dead at the scene. The bodies of the mother and a preschool-aged girl were recovered by firefighters hours later, according to Newsplex.

Fire officials had not returned C-VILLE’s calls at presstime, but according to The Daily Progress, the house was equipped with a working smoke detector. The cause of the fire has not been determined, and the investigation will likely be slowed by the inclement weather.

In the days since the blaze, controversy has erupted over firefighters’ 12-minute response time. An additional report in The Daily Progress reveals that firefighters at the East Rivanna station, located just one mile from the blaze, had responded to an assault call and were unable to leave that scene until police and EMTs had arrived due to legal concerns.

“If firefighters are dealing with a call that they’re on and they leave, they’ve abandoned the patients they’re treating,” Albemarle County Assistant Fire Marshal Robbie Gilmer told the Progress.

Firefighters from the Monticello fire house seven miles away were first on the scene, and the volunteer firefighters from the Rivanna station left the assault scene when police arrived, returned to their station to retrieve a firetruck, and arrived at the fire one minute after Monticello firefighters, Gilmer told the Progress.

The victims have not been officially identified, but a fundraiser has been launched for a Keswick Hall employee named Sadiqh Hussain, described as the husband and father of the victims. At presstime, that effort had raised approximately $4,500 of a $100,000 goal. To donate, visit http://www.youcaring.com/other/friends-of-sadiqh-fund/128437.

CAT gets an App

Recent changes to the Charlottesville Area Transit system have some regular riders complaining that the bus routes now take longer—or don’t come at all, thanks to the removal of multiple stops. But one thing that’s about to get easier for riders is tracking buses in real time, thanks to the upcoming launch of a free smartphone app.

Already, CAT riders can dial a number and enter a code for any given bus stop to find out when the next bus will arrive. The app, designed in-house by the city’s IT department, is an extension of that service, and will be available in mobile phone users’ app stores March 1.*

Bill making it easier to boot elected officials moves ahead

A bill that would make it easier to remove elected officials from office if they are convicted of certain crimes made it through a Virginia House subcommittee vote unopposed this week, according to news reports, and its local Republican sponsor, Albemarle Delegate Rob Bell, has high hopes for the new measure.

Bell told C-VILLE earlier this month that the unsuccessful fight to remove Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler from his seat via petition last year inspired the legislation. Dumler pleaded guilty to a sexual battery misdemeanor charge following an arrest for forcible sodomy in November 2012. Local residents subsequently seized on a rarely used state law that allows voters to petition a judge to unseat elected officials, but the current law is so narrowly construed that only a few offenses—marijuana possession being one—can be grounds for removal.

Bell’s proposal would add sexual battery and other sex crimes to that list. The measure needs full committee approval before it can head to the floor of the House.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the CAT app would be available in beta form February 1. CAT is beta testing the app, but it won’t be widely available until the formal launch March 1.

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