8News Investigates: Has A Brunswick Politician Been Violating St - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

8News Investigates: Has A Brunswick Politician Been Violating State Law?

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) - In Brunswick County, the claim to fame is stew. And in local politics, few stir the pot like Welton Tyler. His hand touches every tax dollar spent in Brunswick.

"He was the chairman of the board last year and he's the vice chair this year, so he has a lot of clout," says Bill Hudson of Better Brunswick Government.

Tyler's signature is on a 2014 statement of economic interest; he signs, swearing the information he's provided in full, true and correct.

But when 8News, along with citizen watchdogs from Better Brunswick Government, looked into Welton Tyler's legally-mandated disclosure statements from the past several years, we found they all fall well short of "full, true and correct."

"I wonder what is the reason for hiding those?" asks Mr. Hudson.

What seemed to be hidden or missing on Tyler's disclosure statements are numerous pieces of real estate. 8News Investigative Reporter A.J. Lagoe knocked on doors to verify property records that show Tyler owns a home at 5805 Belfield Road. Records indicate he's owned that home since 2000.

He also owns a home at 7064 Belfield Road; he purchased it in 2010. There is yet another house which Shontae Edmonds and her family have called home since 2007.

"I moved in in 2007," says Edmonds.

On Tyler's 2013 and 2014 disclosure forms, there is no mention of either of the Belfield Road homes. The address of the home Shontae Edmonds occupies--22164 Gov. Harrison Parkway--is also not listed.

Edmonds confirmed to us that she pays $650 per month in rent to Welton Tyler.

University of Richmond professor Hank Chambers tells 8News that under Virginia code, if you're elected to public office--be it the governor or a local board member--you're required to fill out a disclosure statement each year. 

"The point to having the form is to make sure we can make a determination as to whether the folks are carrying out their responsibilities consistent with the public's interest, or possibly consistent with only their own interest," explains Chambers.

While 8News was out researching this story and filing the numerous properties Welton Tyler owns, Tyler's brother and real estate partner, Rufus Tyler, pulled up asking what we were doing.

"I'm going around taking a look and seeing what's what," A.J. told him on April 9. The very next morning, Welton Tyler sent a letter to the County Administrator. It states, in part, that upon review of his 2014 real estate holdings form, he discovered "several properties were erroneously omitted."

Tyler also revised his form, disclosing six additional properties.

8News requested an interview with Tyler; instead, receivedved a statement in which he writes he hainadvertentlytly left some information off," and does not see "any value in making further comment."

Although Mr. Tyler doesn't want to make further comment, but 8News has plenty of further questions, as our check of property records shows Vice Chairman Tyler is still not disclosing all of his real estate.

We walked up to Mr. Tyler outside of a Board of Supervisors meeting. A.J. pressed him for details on his property records.

A.J. Lagoe: "Can we stop and talk with you for a second?"

Mr. Tyler: "What do you want to talk about?"

A.J. Lagoe: "We want to talk with you about your disclosure statements...is everything on there accurate now?"

Mr. Tyler: "Everything is accurate."

A.J. Lagoe: "Completely?"

Mr. Tyler: "To the best of my knowledge."

A.J. Lagoe: We looked at it and there's still some issues on there. I mean, all of your properties aren't listed."

Mr. Tyler: "Yeah, they're listed."

A.J. Lagoe: "Every one of them?"

Mr. Tyler: "To the best of my knowledge. To the best of my knowledge, yes sir."

However, on Tyler's amended form, there is still no mention of Shontae Edmond's home, although she says she pays rent to Tyler every month.

There is also no mention of this house at 22242 Gov. Harrison Parkway. But before we could ask Tyler about any specifics, he decided he was done talking.

"You've got my statement, no more other comments, okay. Thank you, have a nice day," he said as he walked away.

This is not the first time Tyler has refused to answer our questions. In 2012, he waived us off when we were investigating Brunswick's illegal lawn mowing contract. Tyler was listed as a reference for a contractor who he voted to award the job to--despite it being the highest bid.

"If he's not going to tell the truth on the economic interest statements, I've got to question his judgement on other things he might approve or disapprove," says Bill Hudson with Better Brunswick Government.

Brunswick citizens are now vowing if they don't get answers, come election time, winds of change will blow in Brunswick.

When asked if he expected better of county leaders, Hudson says emphatically "I demand better, demand better."

Tyler recently filed yet another amended disclosure statement, which is still not completely accurate. It does, however, disclose the properties listed in this report, including the home Shontae Edmonds lives in.

The penalty for not properly disclosing property and gifts is a class omisdemeanornor; this could result in up to a year in jail and a hefty fine. It must be proven that the omissions were made knowingly and not just sloppy mistakes. Tyler repeatedly told 8News that his property disclosure form was accurate "to the best of his knowledge." Law enforcement officials have contacted 8News saying they've been made aware of this situation and are looking into it.

Stay with 8News on air and online for updates to this story.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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