With money meant for veterans, they got beer and tans. And now criminal charges

They claimed to be helping homeless veterans in Pierce County find homes and counseling.

Instead, they are accused of using thousands in taxpayer dollars at bars, restaurants, home improvement stores, tanning salons and a trip to an Arizona racetrack.

Now, two years after Clyde Drury III was fired from the Pierce County Veterans Bureau, prosecutors have charged him with first-degree theft.

Also charged is his friend, Douglas Bliss, who helped create a fake business in 2015 that accepted at least $24,000 in county funds.

Both men are scheduled to be arraigned June 30.

They could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

Drury spent nearly five years as the program manager for the Veterans Bureau and collected a $68,213 annual salary. He was fired in June 2015 after a county investigation concluded he misspent more than $36,000 collected by a special property tax earmarked for veterans programs.

“You knowingly and willfully directed money to your friends and family knowing there was no evidence of any service ever having been provided, nor any records to support such payments,” Al Rose, an attorney in the county Executive’s Office, wrote in a letter firing Drury. “The fact that you personally benefited from funds that were designated to support our nation’s veterans is truly deplorable and shameful.”

The deceit came to light in 2015 after a fellow employee in the four-man bureau expressed concern about $6,000 monthly checks being written to a company called DB1 Enterprize.

An investigation found the company was run by Bliss, a good friend of Drury’s who lived with him for some time.

Drury claimed he started a housing project for veterans and the business had already provided homes and counseling for 47 veterans.

When pressed for details, Drury was vague.

He said there was no contract but the county authorized it with a “handshake deal,” according to charging papers.

A bank account for the business received the checks but showed no signs of paying for veteran housing, records show. It did list expenses at grocery stores, restaurants, taverns and a trip to an Arizona racetrack, among other things.

A 2001 Volkswagon Jetta that was donated to the Veterans Bureau was also found to be registered to Drury’s stepson, records show.

He told investigators his stepson was acting as a caregiver to a disabled veteran and used the car for work.

Detectives interviewed Bliss, who was reportedly vague with details about the business.

He said they kept no records or books and paid the landlords directly for veteran housing. However, Bliss couldn’t recall exactly where the apartments were located. He said he thought they might be located along bus routes.

Drury told investigators he was depressed and “dysfunctional” during the time he is accused of stealing county funds because his mother was dying.

“He indicated his judgment was affected,” court records show.

Drury said he did not have financial problems.

“I guess I have ego problems and like making it sound like I’m a big man,” according to the county’s 42-page investigation.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653