The Town of Dexter faced and consequently approved its audit for the 2011 fiscal year, Tuesday, which includes findings of alleged fraudulent use of taxpayer’s money for personal use and discloses instances of noncompliance. The Dexter Council approved the audit 4-0 at its regular business meeting.
The public remained mute, sporadically shaking their heads and whispering to their neighbors, as Mayor Dave White read all five of the listed material weaknesses submitted in the audit.
Resident Sarah Porte, who ran for a council seat during the March election, was the sole individual to address the council publicly. Speaking on behalf of the concerned citizens of Dexter, Porte said, “Though these alleged improper actions did not happen overnight, you as a council have fought and in defiance of state law have publicly asserted your role as managers of the Fire Department. You have approved every charge, participated in budget processes and approved each monthly report.”
The audit listed findings such as a review of all fleet services bills for gasoline and diesel revealed that fuel was allegedly purchased for personal vehicles. Another finding reads that the amount of pharmaceutical drugs purchased were greater than could have possibly been used by the patients served by EMS volunteers. A third reads that the majority of invoices from NAPA Auto Parts of Hagerman appear to have been signed by a volunteer fireman. Additionally, this fireman “appears to have repaired fire vehicles owned by the Town for no monetary value. Additional discussion revealed the volunteer many not be a legal citizen of the United States.”
Dexter Fire Chief Justin Powell had no comment. Councilor Thomas Mireles also did not wish to comment.
“These are the people that are protecting our community from all the dangers of the fires and the accidents and things like that. My hat’s off to them for what they do. I’m just concerned about what happens before they start those engines. If we can cooperate on that then I think we can have a viable community,” White said in an interview after the meeting.
White has been at odds with the councilors and Powell since he took office in March 2010. During a September 2011 meeting, the councilors voted to strip the mayor of his supervision duties of the Dexter Fire Department. Adding fuel to the fire, the mayor chose not to reappoint Town Clerk Kay Roberts and Police Chief Pete Montez in March. White said, Roberts’ “behavior is being monitored.” As for Montez, “I’ve been asking for him to cooperate with me by giving me information throughout the years. That didn’t happen like it should.”
Before the audit, the mayor said there were indications that these types of actions had been going on before. “I wasn’t surprised so much as I didn’t know there were that many,” he said.
The audit was completed by the office of De’Aun Willoughby, CPA, based in Melrose, and forwarded to the office of state auditor Hector Balderas.
According to White, it was the state fire marshal’s audit that tipped off Willoughby to dig deeper. “When you have $12,000 or so of unauthorized expenditures, that should get everybody’s attention,” he said. Willoughby requested an extension from the Dec. 1 2011, due date to complete the audit, given its severity. Given the late audit, the town risks losing federal and state funding.
“The council makes decisions tonight but the mayor is responsible for day-to-day operations. I’m hoping that we can highlight those things that have already been highlighted for us and try to find answers to them and then avoid them,” White said.
It is expected that Balderas and/or the district attorney will investigate the town’s audit further.