DSS worker arrested for allegedly stealing from poor

First Posted: 6/22/2009

DOBSON A former supervisor at the Surry County Department of Social Services has been charged with obtaining money by false pretense through her position at DSS.
Donna Marie Key, 51, of 2593 S. Main St., Mount Airy, was arrested Tuesday, according to Sheriff Graham Atkinson.
The charges against Key date back to 2004 when she allegedly directed a subordinate social worker to go with a client and withdraw $155 from the clients bank account to help pay rent on the womans subsidized housing. Key explained to the social worker that DSS was paying two-thirds of the rent for the woman and her children, but that she had to make up the difference and that the amount would go into a special account for that purpose.
She had the subordinate go with the woman each month to get the money, Atkinson said. When the social worker asked for a receipt, Key told her she was her supervisor and she did not have to give her one.
Because of that reaction, the social worker kept notes on each transaction, including other DSS personnel who were around when she gave Key the money.
Last September, she also went with Key on a shopping trip to Wal-Mart that Key allegedly explained was to buy items for a family that had been burned out.
As supervisor, she had the county credit card and she told her subordinate what to buy and directed her to sign the receipt, Atkinson said. She did, but she also noted on the receipt that Key was with her.
The shopping trip cost the department about $700, according to Detective David Hamlin, who handled the countys investigation. Video from Wal-Mart confirmed that Key was with the woman who signed the receipt.
Earlier this year, the social worker ran into the departments financial person and asked about the special account into which the funds she had collected each month had supposedly been going. She learned there was no such account and she contacted the sheriffs office.
Because of her notes, we were able to find witnesses to many of the transactions, Hamlin said. They said she always put the money in her desk or under her leg to try to hide it. She never left it where anyone could see it, which they thought was unusual.
Hamlin said he attempted several times to interview Key, who was dismissed from her position with DSS, but that she never had time. Key was released on a $25,000 secured bond.

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