BEMUS POINT – Village leaders thanked their outgoing clerk and treasurer who came on board over two years ago during a difficult time.
Last week, members of the Bemus Point Village Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Brenda Knipe. She began serving as a part-time clerk and treasurer after Jennifer Jaeger, who previously held that position, was removed from her position and later accused of using village funds for personal gain.
Ted Farnham, deputy mayor of Bemus Point, and other village council members praised Knipe’s work after the thefts came to light in late 2019.
“I would like to thank Brenda personally because she probably found herself in the worst situation she could have been in on this forum”, Farnham said. “None of us really knew what was going on and she really bailed us out. I mean 2 and a half years ago we were lost.
He continued, “Brenda, I would like to personally thank you for all you have done over the past 2 1/2 years for the village of Bemus Point.”
Mayor Jeff Molnar then added, “I think everyone here feels that.”
Jaeger admitted to writing village checks to herself from 2015 – using fake signatures and having village officials sign blank checks which she then cashed. Additionally, she reportedly used a village bank account to pay for her family’s personal cell phones and car payments and to buy Christmas gifts.
On the advice of the Chautauqua County Attorney’s Office, Jaeger was placed on unpaid leave.
Details of the thefts were first publicly exposed by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in February 2021. The initial charges included second-degree grand larceny, two counts of second-degree forgery and forgery of business documents in the first degree, all crimes, plus official misconduct, a misdemeanor.
Jaeger later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of petty larceny on the condition that the stolen money – just over $58,000 – be repaid in full.
Bryan Dahlberg, who retired after 24 years as mayor of the village, said handling the investigation into the theft and its fallout was among the most difficult of his tenure.
“It was a very trying time” said Dahlberg. “You trust people. … I guess we were naive. We did things the way we always have, and as long as you have honest people, things are going well. But when you don’t, you don’t. It broke my heart, really. I sat in that office and cried, but we got through it. It took two years to do it, and I wasn’t going to leave until the final report to the state was made.
Last week, the village council approved the appointment of Brittany Mulkins as the new village clerk and treasurer. It should start on December 31.