Police: $139,000 missing - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Police: $139,000 missing

Prosecutor could make embezzlement charging decision by week's end

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Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Coeur d'Alene police investigating a suspected case of embezzlement by a former longtime Kootenai County employee have determined about $139,000 is unaccounted for from a 10-year period.

Coeur d'Alene detectives received a report Dec. 7 from Kootenai County Clerk-Auditor Dan English of an employee - named by English as chief deputy clerk Sandy Martinson - possibly embezzling money.

Detectives received financial records dating from January 2000 to Oct. 31 for review.

The police department completed its investigation and forwarded the results to the Bonner County prosecutor's office, said Sgt. Christie Wood, department spokeswoman.

The police report or results of the investigation couldn't be obtained Wednesday in a public records request because the investigation is ongoing.

Bonner County is handling the prosecution because Martinson was a Kootenai County employee for almost 35 years.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall told The Press he will need to review the matter with the investigators and hopefully make a charging decision in the next week.

Martinson, a Post Falls resident, couldn't be immediately reached for comment about the allegations.

English said county auditors undertook a routine review of Martinson's records after her late-November retirement and discovered "irregularities." He said her retirement plans had been in the works for a year.

Martinson was chief deputy clerk and auditing supervisor before English was appointed in 1995.

As a chief deputy, she had the authority to sign documents when English wasn't present. Much of her day-to-day duties included dealing with taxing districts.

The Press interviewed Martinson in October about those very taxing districts.

The newspaper reported then that the Kootenai County auditor's office was a year late distributing $1.4 million in property tax relief to the county's taxing districts.

"The money was there, but action wasn't taken, for some reason," Martinson said in the Oct. 27 article. "We're going to have it (the funds) all labeled and ready to go with other remittances on Nov. 8, so it will finally be in the districts' coffers."

The delay meant taxing districts - including highway districts, cities, fire districts and North Idaho College - didn't get some due property taxes they could have used to provide services.

Few, if any, noticed the missing money.

Martinson couldn't pinpoint just what went wrong, the article reported.

Every year, the state provides property tax relief, paying property taxes on behalf of low-income individuals who didn't cover it themselves.

The relief funds enter Kootenai County's system twice a year, Martinson said. It's up to the auditor's office, where she worked, to send the money along to the taxing districts, along with other property taxes.

The tax relief for 2008 simply sat in the computer system and wasn't distributed.

There is no way for taxing districts to know if the tax relief funds are missing, Martinson said, as those are lumped in with other property taxes - not listed as a separate line item.

The county has distributed property tax relief for more than 35 years, she added, with no problems before.

There won't be any again, she assured.

"We may stumble once in awhile, but we always learn from it," she said.

On Wednesday, English said there was no relation between the late distribution reported in October and the ongoing embezzlement investigation.

"But she was responsible to get those payments out in a timely way," he said.

On Oct. 30, the Press reported another failure by the Kootenai County auditor's office to distribute tax revenue to county taxing districts.

Because of an employee's oversight, the county failed to distribute a total of $151,000 in what it called "yield and deferred taxes" to taxing districts from 2006 through 2009.

A county staff member had held off on calculating yield and deferred tax distribution manually, waiting for a computer program to be updated to do the calculations.

The taxing districts affected include school, highway, and fire districts, as well as county emergency medical services.

Also in that case, English said there was no connection at all between that tax-distribution mistake and the current investigation of Martinson.

The last few months have been a very tough time, with the two taxing mistakes and now the investigation of his chief deputy, English acknowledged.

His credibility has taken a hit, he said, as has the office's.

"I still feel like I've done a good job overall," English said.

The clerk-auditor position is a big job, he said.

"It's a very wide-ranging set of responsibilities that aren't logically connected," English said. "That's why I've had to rely on my staff and department heads."

Cliff Hayes was elected in November as the new clerk, and he takes office Jan. 10.

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10 comments:

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 10:10 am on Fri, Dec 31, 2010.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    RRudebaugh,

    Thanks for your comment on my truism. I hope we all can have a happier newyear than the last.

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 2:38 am on Fri, Dec 31, 2010.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Angel,

    There is a cursory audit every year, but if nothing strange is found an in-depth audit is not conducted. Apparently after the election, and the retirement of this woman (dec 7th) they found something suspicious and ordered a forensic audit. Mr. English and commissioner Currie leaked the investigation and name to the press, and now the police are having to scramble and turn it over to a prosecutor.

    Somehow Dan English and Commissioner Currie felt the need to stick politics into a criminal investigation. But neither one have should any common sense for years now. I f the police would have broken this story in there good time, I wouldn't be thinking there is a possible coverup of something more. Chicago style politics has been a mainstay of KC politics for a few years now.

    Personally I hope it's just stupid bookkeeping, but if not I hope they dig deep enough to clean out all the corruption in the county. I see Currie pushed a lameduck session to push a 20 year plan on the county as farewell gift to the voter that kicked him out. And in the same week this is found by another election loser. Is it real or is it payback or coverup???? will we ever know?

     
  • RRudebaugh posted at 8:52 pm on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    RRudebaugh Posts: 7

    Jeff very good comment: "...you can delegate authority but never responsibility".

     
  • Angel posted at 7:40 pm on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    Angel Posts: 6

    It took 10 years for an audit?? Hmmm...something wrong there. Was this woman checked thru the DOJ before she even started that job?Maybe kickbacks were involved,guess no one will ever know if they only audit every 10 yrs..

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 12:08 pm on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    Mary Souza Posts: 813

    I like that, Jeff, "...you can delegate authority but never responsibility".

    Dan English will not take his responsibility. He has never said he was at fault, even though he was elected to be in charge.

    Now it sounds like the Commissioners and several other County officials are also implicated. There's a lot of finger-pointing going on.

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 9:42 am on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    I think Mr English is done in KC politics. If he has any future plans he will have to move to become even a dog catcher. He didn't learn you can delegate authority but never responsibility. This type of deification always rolls uphill.

     
  • Dan Gookin posted at 9:14 am on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    Dan Gookin Posts: 752

    Indeed, there are people who accept that English blew it on oversight for this issue, but they still insist that the 2009 City Election was flawless. Those people also include the City of Coeur d'Alene, which should have sued the County and English for incompetence running the election. Then again, they got the results they wanted, so there will be no suit, and English continues to skate on what I consider to be a questionable, shoddy reputation.

     
  • ancientemplar posted at 7:57 am on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1283

    "I still feel like I've done a good job overall," English said.

    The clerk-auditor position is a big job, he said.

    "It's a very wide-ranging set of responsibilities that aren't logically connected," English said. "That's why I've had to rely on my staff and department heads."

    Sure is a good thing for the county that English won't be back. He said the same thing about the election's absentee ballots. This guy is in denial.

     
  • RadRevD posted at 7:39 am on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    RadRevD Posts: 3333

    some families have lost this much in the value of their homes within the past five years.

     
  • InThePines posted at 7:20 am on Thu, Dec 30, 2010.

    InThePines Posts: 146

    Let me get this straight....this story is in *addition* to the million and then the 400K which all fell thru the cracks in the same office this past year? Luckily we have a new Clerk.
    Frank

     
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