Feb 26, 2014 — SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam Vice President for Business Affairs Natalie Higley is pleading not guilty to charges of theft. Higley's been accused of stealing from Bainbridge State College in Georgia, where she used to work.
A few months ago, Bainbridge State College asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to look into a case involving state property allegedly stolen from the school. Agent Steve Turner says several people, including joint SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam vice president for business affairs Natalie Higley, were indicted.
The full indicment includes two counts of theft by taking, theft by receiving, two counts of theft by conversion, and one count violating a RICO statute in Georgia.
The list of stolen items includes a Ford tractor, a golf cart, an ice machine and several other objects, that Higley and three others allegedly intended to sell.
North Country Public Radio was unable to contact Natalie Higley.
The news came as a shock to SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam, where Higley now works.
Lenore VanderZee is SUNY Canton's university relations director, and says when the charges came from the grand jury, "neither she nor we had any indication this was coming."
Last Friday, Higley turned herself in to the Bainbridge, Ga., county sheriff. She was arrested, and then immediately released after she posted her own bond.
She's pleading not guilty. SUNY Potsdam spokesperson Alexandra Jacobs says Higley will also file a motion to dismiss.
North Country Public Radio also tried to contact Higley's lawyer but didn't hear back.
VanderZee says the two schools are waiting to see how the legal process plays out.
In the meantime, SUNY Canton will conduct an internal audit. VanderZee calls the audit "routine," but says it's happening a bit off the usual cycle: "I think it's really important for the college to show that we're safeguarding our assets, but I want to make it very clear that we have no particular agenda with the audit and there's nothing in particular or specifically that we're looking for in conducting it."
SUNY Potsdam will conduct an audit if the case goes to trial.
Higley was hired in 2012 when SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam decided to share services. She's using vacation time to address the charges. Her duties are being completed by other administrators.
The case could go to trial on May 5.