PARIS – Deborah P. Wyman’s long-haired twin sister arrived at Oxford County Superior Court with Wyman’s lawyer on Thursday while Wyman waited elsewhere, leaving some observers to wonder which woman was about to arraigned on a charge of stealing thousands of dollars from the town of Norway.
Later, Wyman, sporting short hair and eyeglasses, pleaded not guilty to one felony count of theft of more than $10,000 before Superior Court Justice Carl O. Bradford. The 51-year-old Harrison woman stood quietly beside her attorney, Edward L. Dilworth III, while he entered her plea.
She then quickly left the courthouse and rushed into a car, trying to avoid television cameras and news photographers.
Before her arraignment, she sat in the courtroom beside Dilworth and her sister, Denise Pettingill of Massachusetts, who at one point reached out and patted Wyman’s leg.
Norway Town Manager David Holt and the town’s five selectmen sat a couple of rows behind them. After the arraignment, Holt said that while he felt a personal sense of betrayal by Wyman’s alleged actions, the “breach of public trust” is more troubling.
“If you can’t trust your local government, it makes it hard for us to function,” he said. “We’re just trying to make this right as best we can.”
Holt declined to comment on Wyman’s plea or the status of her employment. When asked if the situation has been time consuming, Holt said, “It’s about all I’ve done.”
Bradford gave Dilworth 90 days to file motions in the case before a trial date is scheduled. He continued Wyman’s cash bail of $2,500, which she posted April 3.
Wyman is accused of stealing federal Community Development Block Grant funds that were earmarked for projects in Norway. She’s been Norway’s community development director since 1986.
The money is believed to have been stolen over the past three years, according to court records.
Maine State Police said recently that investigators have identified at least 67 transactions of town funds deposited into Wyman’s personal bank account.
According to an affidavit by Holt filed March 17, the investigation to that point had uncovered more than $55,352 in unauthorized transfers from the town’s account to Wyman’s personal account.
Two forensic auditors are continuing to examine town and community development grant accounts to identify discrepancies.
Wyman also faces a civil complaint filed by the town that seeks recovery of more than $55,000 as well as costs incurred by the town and punitive damages.
Wyman was charged on March 17, the same day police searched her apartment at 27 Main St. in Harrison, where several items were seized, including her bank records and tax records.
Wyman returned to Maine early this month after spending a three-month unpaid leave of absence in Florida and the Caribbean.
The investigation began early this year when Holt told Norway Police Chief Robert Federico that a crime may have been committed. In January, the town had mailed 1099 tax forms to recipients of a community development block grant to improve business facades in town.
The grant was administered by Wyman. One recipient told town officials he did not receive the funds indicated on the form, prompting Holt to look into the matter and contact police.
In early March, Federico subpoenaed bank records which showed several fund transfers from the town’s checking account to Wyman’s personal account. Most of the transfers were deposits by Wyman using an ATM.