Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Suit: Documents forged to protect SV mayor

Hammer attorney Jim Donoval challenges credibility of audit


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

Original bill-paying forms within the city of Sun Valley were destroyed and forged copies were made to cover up the role of then City Councilman, now Mayor, Dewayne Briscoe in possible financial mismanagement of the city last year, according to a lawsuit filed last week in 5th District Court in Hailey.

The suit was filed Aug. 20 by Jim Donoval, an attorney for former City Administrator Sharon Hammer, and names the city and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office as defendants. It seeks a court order allowing Donoval to inspect the original documents, now allegedly in the possession of the Attorney General’s Office.

In the suit’s complaint, Donoval challenges the credibility of a forensic audit commissioned to investigate potential fraud in the city’s financial affairs during fiscal 2011. The audit was delivered to the City Council on Friday but has not been made public. 

On March 26, Donoval made a request to the city to obtain forms filled out by Hammer, Treasurer Michelle Frostenson and Fire Chief Jeff Carnes for authorization of bill payments, called “yellow sheets,” between September 2010 and October 2011. However, the complaint states, the city produced only copies of 25 of the forms and failed to provide 17 of the 42 forms requested, without any explanation for their “removal or destruction.”

On Aug. 9, City Attorney Adam King told Donoval in an email that the originals were in the possession of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office “pursuant to a subpoena served on the city of Sun Valley in the criminal investigation.”

In an interview, Attorney General’s Office spokesman Bob Cooper declined to comment on whether his office had issued a subpoena or even whether it was investigating incidents at the city, referring any questions on the subject to Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas. Thomas did not return a phone call by press time Tuesday.

Briscoe has stated in the past that the city is under investigation by the Attorney General's Office and the Blaine County Prosecutor’s Office for possible criminal conduct.


“I have never altered any documents. I have no knowledge of anyone altering any documents.”
DeWayne Briscoe
Mayor


In an interview, Donoval said he believes the intent of the alleged document destruction and forgeries was not only to absolve Briscoe of responsibility but also to facilitate charges of misconduct against Hammer.

“The copies of the yellow sheets produced in response to the Three Public Record Requests … all include a sloppy and obviously forged single “S” as Ms. Hammer’s purported initial,” the complaint states.

It also states that the copies provided to Donoval by the city in many places lack the initials from all the city officials required to approve a purchase, making them “obvious forgeries.”

“The destruction of the original yellow sheets and the forgery of the yellow sheets, all of which are documents which were the responsibility of, and in the exclusive control of, Treasurer Frostenson, puts the credibility of the entire Sun Valley forensic audit at risk, including in regards to any other documents or information that has been provided to the forensic auditors by Treasurer Frostenson or Sun Valley,” the complaint states.

Under Sun Valley policy, City Council members are required to sign the purchase orders on a monthly rotating basis. The complaint states that  “[m]ost, if not all,” of the missing sheets were for months during which then Councilman Briscoe would have been required to sign them.

The complaint also contends that “many of the forged copies of the yellow sheets that were provided by Sun Valley in response to the Three Public Records Requests were forged specifically to remove [now] Mayor Briscoe’s initials from the original yellow sheets.” According to the complaint, that was done “so that Mayor Briscoe can deceitfully assert that if there was any financial mismanagement of Sun Valley during the period covered by the Sun Valley forensic audit that Mayor Briscoe was neither aware of it or not responsible for it.”

In an interview, Briscoe said that when the audit was commissioned in April, he sent a memo to all city employees instructing them not to alter or destroy any financial documents.

“I have never altered any documents,” he said. “I have no knowledge of anyone altering any documents.”

Briscoe said the auditors state in a cover letter attached to the audit that they did not find any evidence of alteration to the documents provided them.

Donoval’s suit also asks that if the documents are neither provided by Sun Valley nor are found to be in the possession of the Attorney General’s Office, the court issue “a referral to Blaine County Prosecutor Jim J. Thomas for a felony criminal investigation of Sun Valley, Mayor Briscoe, Treasurer Frostenson, and any other responsible Sun Valley officials and employees” for destruction of public records.


Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com

 




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