Arrest Investigation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

State investigators mum after arrest at non-profit

By Billy Davis

The Miss. Department of Health and Human Services is continuing its investigation at a Batesville agency following the March 23 arrest of an employee there.

A spokesman for the state agency said she could not comment on the arrest of Yulanda Starling at North Delta Planning and Development, citing an ongoing investigation.

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Starling, 39, of Clarksdale, is charged with committing fraud with state and federal funds, according to a jail log entry at the Panola County jail.

She was arrested at the Batesville non-profit office by state investigators, with assistance from a Panola sheriff’s investigator who booked her.  

At North Delta Planning, Starling is employed as senior case manager for the Area Agency on Aging, a local-level agency that provides help to the elderly.

North Delta executive director Glenn K. Brown did not return phone calls seeking comment, but sources familiar with the arrest said Starling is accused of falsifying documents for the Meals on Wheels program.

It was not clear if Starling is still employed at North Delta Planning following her arrest.  

Starling has hired an attorney after her arrest, The Panolian has learned.

North Delta Planning is one of 10 Planning and Development Districts in Mississippi. North Delta covers seven northwest counties, including Panola, where local governments are most familiar with its ongoing help in obtaining federal and state grants.

North Delta and other districts also help with workforce development, and mapping and planning services, among other areas of expertise.  

Area Agency on Aging is part of a long-time federal program that is administered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Federal funds come to Mississippi through Mississippi DHS, where they trickle down to the local level, according to an official familiar with the program.  

North Delta Planning is overseen by an executive committee that includes James Sowell, of Tate County, who serves as president of the committee.

Sowell, when reached by a reporter March 31, said he was unaware of Starling’s arrest.

“That’s news to me,” he said.

Starling’s arrest was not mentioned when the executive committee met March 29 with Brown for its bi-monthly meeting, said Gary Thompson, president of the Panola County Board of Supervisors.

Thompson serves on the executive committee along with fellow Panola supervisors James Birge and Vernice Avant.

Thompson sought to distance Panola County government from the arrest, stressing that he and other supervisors are familiar only with North Delta’s program specialists, who aid the county in planning and economic development.