(Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.)
Former president of the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce, Anna McKinney, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of theft over $30,000 and under $150,000. McKinney, 68, was sentenced to five years of deferred adjudication and a fine of $1,000.
A statement from Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said the plea was entered in the 59th state district court and McKinney was required, as a condition of the plea, to pay $55,477 in restitution at the time of the plea.
The statement said the Texas Rangers investigation and an audit identified $20,707 in questionable payments made from Denison Chamber accounts, and $18,377 from Convention and Visitors Bureau accounts to McKinney during 2015 and 2016. The payments were made in the form of unauthorized bonus checks to McKinney, payments made to McKinney’s personal credit cards, and reimbursement checks to McKinney for business expenses that were never incurred by the Chamber or DCVB.
“Mrs. McKinney was cooperative with law enforcement and the investigation,” Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said. “She interviewed with the Rangers, and explained that personal issues in her life were such that she made very bad decisions at that time. She has paid back everything that the audit identified as missing and has also paid to the Chamber several thousands of dollars for the legal expenses and the cost of the audit. We seldom get this kind of cooperation and effort to make things right.”
Brown said McKinney waived indictment on the charges.
“In these situations where a defendant wants to plead guilty and has done everything possible to cooperate and rectify the situation, we will allow them to waive indictment and process through the jail on the day of their guilty plea,” Brown said. “It is an accommodation, but we certainly want to encourage defendants to cooperate the way Mrs. McKinney has.”
The charge against McKinney was a 3rd Degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. McKinney was represented by Sherman attorney John Hunter Smith.
McKinney did not return a phone seeking comment on the plea Friday afternoon.
In a statement, the Denison Chamber said, "We are pleased to be able to put this matter behind us as we continue to focus on serving the businesses that make up the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce."
She retired as president of the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce in October of 2016. She had served the city for nearly 40 years and had joined the chamber in 1977 and became its president in 1995.
Though everyone was all smiles and compliments during the announcement of McKinney’s exit from the chamber, it soon became apparent that something was amiss. In November, the Herald Democrat received information that McKinney had retired amid of an internal investigation. A statement from the Chamber said, “The Board’s initial review has identified the need to engage a professional auditor immediately and such action has been taken.”
By February, the Chamber was requesting an investigation by the Texas Rangers. “The Denison Chamber of Commerce and city of Denison have been working jointly on an in-depth audit of both the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Bureau funds since identifying the need for such a review toward the end of 2016,” the Chamber said in a statement.
“The Denison Chamber of Commerce and city of Denison have been working jointly on an in-depth audit of both the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Bureau funds since identifying the need for such a review toward the end of 2016,” the Chamber said in a statement at the time.
The city of Denison issued a statement Friday saying it, “worked closely with the Denison Chamber of Commerce and Texas Rangers to discover the full extent of the theft from both the Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) accounts. In order to protect the CVB funds, which come from the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) collected by the City, the Chamber transferred its own funds to the CVB account in the estimated amount of the theft.”
Herald Democrat reporter Michael Hutchins contributed to this article.