By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Prominent Del Norte County employee Veann Toreson pleaded not guilty yesterday on 13 charges of financial elder abuse and one charge of grand theft.

The charges were filed against Toreson Friday by Del Norte County District Attorney Bob Drossel.

Toreson is accused of abusing the power of attorney she had over her elderly next-door neighbor by writing checks from the woman's bank account for her own use.

andquot;There was a lengthy financial investigation by one of my investigators and it was determined that money was spent not to the benefit of the elderly person,andquot; Drossel said.

Toreson sat in court yesterday with her husband Rick Toreson, a Del Norte High School history teacher, while Judge William Follett informed all those in court of their rights.

Drossel would not elaborate on exactly what Toreson was accused of doing with the elderly woman's money.

andquot;We can't say too much of what she did and what she spent it on, but it was probable cause to charge her,andquot; Drossel said.

Toreson remained silent in the courtroom as her attorney set a preliminary hearing date of 8 a.m., May 14 with the judge.

What led to the charges, according to Drossel was a distress call from the elderly woman's house.

andquot;She (Toreson) was the neighbor of the elderly woman and was helping her out. Eventually Veann got power of attorney.

andquot;Suspicion came when sheriffs responded to a call of assistance to this elderly gal for medical attention, and saw that her house was in disarray and noticed a checkbook with lots of different writing styles in it,andquot; Drossel said.

A financial investigation was conducted by district attorney's office investigators and Toreson was charged.

Toreson is known for her role as president of the Del Norte County Employees Association during a recent wage-cut battle between the county administration and its workers.

She is also an employee of the Del Norte County Department of Health and Social Services. Toreson's job title is andquot;employment and training worker III.andquot;

She has not resigned her position and the county has not discharged her.