Former NCHB director arrested

COVINGTON -- The former executive director of the Newton County Home Builders Association has been arrested and charged with stealing more than $3,000 through the illegal use of the association's credit card, according to the Covington Police Department.

Andrea Hammond, 37, of 5141 Hartsook Drive, Covington, was picked up Friday afternoon by a Covington Police officer during a traffic stop. Hammond was reportedly a passenger in the car and was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

According to Lt. Paul Dailey, Hammond faces 98 counts of theft by conversion misdemeanor in connection with misuse of the Home Builders Association credit card over the course of her nearly five years of employment. "That number could rise because the investigation is ongoing," Dailey said.

Dailey said Hammond was using the association's credit card to purchase personal items, such as dog treats. No purchase was greater than $500, he said.

The alleged theft came to light after the association's treasurer began asking Hammond for financial documents. Dailey said that Hammond kept delaying providing the documents until finally the treasurer "started digging on her own."

Dailey said the illegal credit card charges go back as far as 2005.

"That's as far as the association went back on the paperwork," he said, adding that he and board members reviewed the paperwork together to determine which purchases were unauthorized.

Hammond abruptly resigned her position on Nov. 10. Dailey said the Home Builders Association had allowed Hammond to resign without prosecution if she would follow certain stipulations.

"The board met about three days later and received information that she was not abiding by those rules," Dailey said.

The board then took its accusation to the Newton County District Attorney's Office, and the investigation was turned over to the Covington Police Department.

Dailey said he tried on several occasions to speak with Hammond about the warrant for her arrest.

"She refused to come to the door a few times, and then she invoked her right to an attorney, so I couldn't talk to her after that," he said.

Jared Rutberg, president of the Home Builders Association, said the organization was "deeply disappointed by the situation and upset by it and shocked and surprised by what had occurred."

"Each and every one of us had known and respected Andrea for a long time, and it has been a difficult situation for the board of directors to deal with," Rutberg added. "The bottom line was that she was offered an opportunity to resign with conditions and, unfortunately, the agreement wasn't upheld and it left us no choice but to proceed with legal action."

Rutberg said there were eight conditions placed on Hammond's resignation; several of them were not upheld.

"The final straw for us was basically the upholding of the good name of the Newton County Home Builders Association, the board, and its members and their companies," Rutberg said. "That (condition) had been violated on numerous occasions and quite publicly. It became the point where it was detrimental to the organization."

According to its Web site, the Newton County Home Builders Association is a not-for-profit professional trade association dedicated to promoting, protecting and preserving the home building industry in Newton County. The association has approximately 114 member companies, according to Rutberg.