Wake school board's Goldman named colleague Malone in theft

khui@newsobserver.comOctober 20, 2012 

Wake County school board member Debra Goldman named fellow board member Chris Malone as a suspect in June 2010 when she reported a burglary from her Cary home of $130,000 worth of jewelry, cash and coins, according to a police report.

Cary police interviewed Malone and dropped him as a suspect after an investigation, but not before recording conflicting statements from both Goldman and Malone about whether they had a romantic relationship.

Both board members were elected during a Republican sweep in 2009, and both are running for higher office – Goldman as the GOP candidate for state auditor and Malone for a seat in the state House.

Goldman told police that Malone pursued a relationship with her, but that she rebuffed him, refusing to answer numerous text messages, some sent after midnight. Malone’s account, according to the report, described a relationship that was “personal and physical.” Both are married, although Goldman has become estranged from her husband since the time of the alleged relationship.

Efforts to reach Goldman and Malone by phone and through visits to their homes Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.

Goldman’s accusation against Malone and their statements about their relationship are part of the case notes of investigators, called the narrative report.

Though a public incident report shows that Cary police investigated a reported burglary at Goldman’s home, Cary police have withheld the narrative report. The state’s Public Records Law allows such records to be made public but doesn’t require it. The News & Observer received a copy of the narrative report from an unknown source on Thursday.

Steven Goldman, Debra Goldman’s husband, and Ron Margiotta, who was school board chairman in 2010, confirmed details from that narrative about the reported theft and acknowledged that Debra Goldman told police Malone was among the suspects.

Margiotta said Goldman asked him to come over after she discovered the burglary that night. Margiotta said Goldman told him she suspected Malone and said that she suggested that to police .

Strain on the board

After the incident, Margiotta said the working relationship among the Republicans on the board was strained by Goldman’s accusations. The nine-member school board oversees the county’s 150,000-student system and a budget of more than $1 billion.

“It certainly had an impact,” Margiotta said. “I had a responsibility to keep them working together. I can’t tell you how much time was spent dealing with them.”

The reported burglary took place during a turbulent time when a new student assignment plan that discarded the use of busing for diversity was being developed and a search for a new superintendent was under way. The other potential suspects that Goldman mentioned to police, according to the report, were people who were fighting the Republican school board majority’s student assignment changes.

A few months after the reported theft, Goldman was the swing vote in October 2010 that killed a GOP plan to divide the county into 16 assignment zones.

Margiotta said he thinks Goldman’s allegation against Malone played a role in her vote against the assignment plan. Goldman’s vote derailed the Republicans’ plan, leading instead to a compromise plan. Two years later the school board, now under Democratic leadership, is still trying to develop a new long-term plan.

Goldman cast her vote on Oct. 5, one day after records show police told her there was not enough evidence to warrant charges in the burglary and they were closing the case.

“She was trying to push back against him and show her independence,” Margiotta said of Goldman’s vote.

Goldman, 49, is a former volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician who made her first run for elected office in 2009. Malone, 55, is a former Wake Forest town commissioner who is a case manager at G4S Compliance and Investigations, which provides security investigations for businesses.

Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore declined a request from The News & Observer to provide a copy of the police narrative in the case or discuss its contents.

Steven Goldman confirmed in an interview the reported burglary and the accusation against Malone. He said he had not seen the narrative report and was unaware of the romantic encounters Malone described having with Debra Goldman. However, Steven Goldman said, he knew that Debra Goldman and Malone had been involved.

“I was kept in the dark about a lot of this,” said Steven Goldman, who said he had not sent the police report to The News & Observer and that he hasn’t been able to get a copy. “I know that money was under the roof of my house. After that date, it was no longer under the roof of my house.”

Steven and Debra Goldman were married in 1993, according to court documents and police reports. They are now living separately and engaged in civil litigation over the distribution of their assets and custody of their children, according to court documents. In addition, they’ve requested protection orders against each other.

Break-in report

According to the police narrative, Debra Goldman reported that someone had broken into her home on June 12, 2010, and stolen $100,000 in jewelry and $20,000 in cash from a “ratty pink backpack.” She also said $10,000 worth of coins from her collection were stolen from a suitcase.

Police asked Goldman why she kept so much money at home. According to the notes of Detective Joseph Lengel, who referred questions to Bazemore, Goldman said that she began to keep large amounts of cash at home in case of emergency because “she found it very difficult to get money from her bank in order to pay her bills” after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Debra went on to say that over the years she got better about having so much money in the home and the amount would drop,” Lengel wrote in the report. “A terrorist attack or plot would occur and she would build this fund up again.”

In a series of meetings with Goldman after the reported theft, investigators asked Goldman for a list of potential suspects, prompting her to mention Malone. According to the report, Goldman said Malone had attempted to have a romantic relationship with her over several months in late 2009 and early 2010, causing her to tell him “to stop contacting her on a personal level.”

In the report, Goldman said Malone ignored her repeated requests that he stop his advances. The situation culminated in a May meeting in which Malone professed his love for her, Goldman told police.

“Malone told Golman (sic) even though he knew she was not interested in a relationship with him, he had to tell Goldman he was in love with her,” according to the report. “Goldman again told Malone she was not interested, and told him this behavior needed to stop.”

Goldman also said that Malone had money problems and that her home was burglarized four or five days after she lost her house key. The report says that Goldman told investigators that Malone was sitting next to her at school board meetings on the day when the key was stolen from her brief case.

Goldman also said that it was “very suspicious” that only days after her burglary that Malone had bought a new pickup truck and new clothes.

The report details an interview that investigator Thomas Stewart had with Malone, who was accompanied by two attorneys.

According to the narrative, Malone admitted to Stewart “he has had money problems for quite some time” but was doing fine at that time. Malone said his brother, Michael, had given him $15,000. Michael Malone later met with Stewart and produced bank statements and receipts showing he had given his brother money and paid his bills.

Stewart, who did not return a call requesting comment, also asked Chris Malone about his relationship with Goldman.

‘Heated’ relationship

The report shows that Malone said he and Goldman had become friends during the school board election in 2009 and that the relationship had progressed by October of that year, when they had their first kiss at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Raleigh.

According to the police narrative, Malone said he and Goldman “never had intercourse,” but their relationship got physically “very heated.”

Malone told police that the two were involved from the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2010, and the relationship grew from dinners and lunches to include encounters in a car and at a Hampton Inn in Cary. He said they exchanged “thousands” of emails from their personal accounts that the two deleted to keep their relationship secret.

“I asked Malone how he would characterize his relationship with Goldman at the time all of this was taking place, and he replied that it was ‘like high school kids dating,’ ” Stewart wrote in the report.

Malone said that it was clear to him by March that Goldman wanted the relationship ended but he didn’t know with certainty until early May, according to Stewart’s notes.

Margiotta, the former board chairman, declined comment on whether Goldman and Malone had a romantic relationship. But he said that he frequently heard from people who were concerned about the way the two were acting together in public.

“It seemed to be common knowledge that there was a relationship going on,” Margiotta said.

Police closed the case in October 2010 after exhausting all leads and not making any arrests. Steven Goldman said his wife did not file an insurance claim for the missing jewelry and has not pursued the investigation since then.

Margiotta said he was surprised that Goldman and Malone ran for higher office this year because the allegations in the police report were known among operatives in both political parties.

“She should have realized that this would get out,” Margiotta said.

Staff writers Andrew Kenney, J. Andrew Curliss and Matt Caulder contributed to this report.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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