NORWAY – The town’s missing community development director, who faces arrest on charges of stealing at least $55,000 in federal grant money from the town, called a town official Monday to ask what evidence the police had against her.

Town Manager David Holt said he didn’t give Debbie Wyman any information about the case police are still building against the 20-year town employee who has had oversight responsibility for more than $5 million in federal grant money since 1986.

Wyman is out of the country cruising the Caribbean, according to the civil lawsuit filed Friday against her by the town. Holt asked Wyman where she was calling from on Monday, but he shrugged off her answer as a smoke screen to keep her whereabouts secret.

He declined to elaborate on either the phone call or where Wyman claimed to be on Monday.

Also on Friday, the town asked Superior Court Justice Roland Cole to order that $55,352 of Wyman’s assets be frozen. Cole agreed, concluding that if Wyman were notified in advance about the attachment of her assets, “there is a clear danger that (Wyman) … will conceal it, will remove it from the state or will otherwise make it unavailable to satisfy a judgment.”

Cole also concluded that “it is more likely than not” that the town would prevail in its case against Wyman.

Holt said Wyman deserves a chance to answer the charges before he fires her, but he left little doubt he thinks the evidence against Wyman is compelling and overwhelming. That evidence includes allegations that Wyman forged Holt’s name on town checks, and also the name of the assistant treasurer, Carol Millett, and then deposited the town checks directly into her Key Bank checking account in downtown Norway, according to court records. Police also allege Wyman sometimes used Holt’s name stamp to sign town checks.

Millett is the only town employee authorized to use Holt’s name stamp, according to the court record.

According to the police arrest warrant and the civil suit filed by the town, Wyman made many of the deposits via an ATM.

Although the Community Development Block Grant program Wyman administered for the town was audited annually, Wyman used different ways to cover her tracks and avoid detection, Holt alleged.

In early January, Holt said he found a document that Wyman had allegedly forged regarding the CDBG program. Once he found that document, he was compelled to go looking at more documents.

He soon called in police to investigate, he said.

“People are going to think and say what they choose,” he said, “but when you’re dealing with someone who forges documents, it’s somewhat difficult to uncover.”

Wyman is believed to be on a cruise with her companion, Gary Searles of Harrison, a well-known and wealthy Oxford Hills businessman.

On Monday, Searles’ son, Chris, of Harrison called the Sun Journal on behalf of Wyman. He said Wyman wanted to tell the newspaper her side of the story and that she would call the paper later in the day.

She had not called as of 8 p.m.

Chris Searles said he did not know where his father was on Monday and declined to say where Wyman was calling from.

It is unclear whether the couple is sailing on a cruise ship or a private yacht.

A woman who answered the phone at Searles Excavation in Harrison on Monday afternoon also would not say where owner Gary Searles was, but laughed and said she had not seen him since Feb. 28.

Wyman was paid $15 an hour by the town for her work as longtime community development director. Over the past several years, as her community development job became less time-consuming, Wyman also worked part-time as the town office receptionist for $7 an hour, Holt said.

Wyman told Holt in December that she needed three months off and asked that he write her a letter of recommendation so she could perhaps get a waitressing job in Florida. Holt said he believed Wyman was having “some trouble in her personal life” at the time and, because of her long service to the town, granted her request.

He did not think the problems were financial, however.

Holt wrote the letter, but Wyman apparently never got a job in Florida.

The manager said local and state police are conducting a thorough investigation that will go as far back as possible in Wyman’s 20-year career with the town. He said the further back the probe goes, however, the harder it becomes to track the alleged fraud and stealing.

At this time, police have issued an arrest warrant for Wyman for allegedly stealing the $55,532 over the past three years.

Staff Writer Rebecca Goldfine contributed to this report.


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