The investigation that began in April has come to an end, and the case is now officially closed.
Pinedale mayor Stephen Smith will not be charged with any violations of state statutes for his use of the town credit card.
“It doesn’t rise to the level of a crime,” said Sublette County prosecuting attorney Lucky McMahon. “So we’re not going to be charging.”
The credit card issue first arose after residents raised questions about Mayor Smith’s charges during his visit to Washington D.C. for the presidential inauguration in January.
Mayor Smith maintains that his wife’s purse went missing during the trip, which prompted him to cancel his credit cards as well, since they had a joint account.
Upon his return to Pinedale, Mayor Smith quickly reimbursed those charges.
But other questions soon arose, including charges at Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne, which he had already repaid.
The most recent charge that was called into question by residents occurred at Country Lane Liquor last November and totaled $102.93, which the mayor insists was simply an oversight on his part, thinking the charge was for gasoline at the adjoining gas station, also called Country Lane.
He again reimbursed those charges once the error was recognized.
When the allegations were brought before the town council in mid-April, members chose to not to take action on the issue, which prompted councilman Dave Smith to send a letter to the governor, requesting an official investigation.
The governor forwarded the request to the Attorney General’s office, which then had the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) look into the matter.
According to protocol, once such an investigation is complete, DCI submits its report to the local prosecutor’s office, which McMahon received last week.
“It all goes to the local county or district attorney,” said DCI director Forrest Bright. “And (the decision to prosecute) is totally up to the local jurisdiction.”
After receiving DCI’s report, McMahon, along with county investigator Randy Hanson, went over the evidence.
“I was very impressed with the investigation,” said Hanson. “It was very thorough and very detailed. And that makes it easier for us, in that there’s no lingering questions out there.
“(Lucky) and I sat down and went through the whole thing, and we thought there was no statutory violation in any way there.”
Two state statutes were applied in the case, but neither was violated since there was no demonstration of intent, according to McMahon.
“You have to have an intent to defraud, which is a specific intent to do something illegal,” said McMahon. “In the other statute, you have to have an intent to permanently deprive someone of property.
“According to the evidence we received in the report, because he reported (the charges) to the clerk, that takes away the intent to defraud. And because he paid it back promptly, it didn’t meet the statute to deprive property.”
Therefore, no charges will be filed — “Criminally, at least, unless the city takes some other action,” added McMahon. “I don’t know what they’re planning on doing.”
But according to Hanson, the town currently has no laws that address the case.
“There is no policy or procedure manual with the city as to what he can or can’t do,” he said. “And the money was paid back, so it looks like there was no intent to defraud anybody.
“If the city wants to take any action establishing a future policy, they can do that. But legally, he has not committed any kind of crime. It’s a done deal.”
Upon hearing the news, councilman Smith, who initiated the investigation, was unwilling to comment, since “I don’t consider it official hearing it from the press.”
Mayor Smith, on the other hand, was happy to have the issue resolved, despite the costs.
“I’m not surprised that the report based on DCI’s investigation has satisfied the Attorney General’s office, and that the county attorney has found no reason to pursue any action whatsoever,” he said. “The letter sent by councilman Smith was taken seriously, (the resident’s) request for a state investigation was met, and although taxpayer’s monies and DCI’s valuable time were misdirected, I’m please to have the issue resolved.
“The past few months have been a frustrating and unnecessary distraction, but we continue to work positively and professionally to address the challenges facing Pinedale.”For the complete article see the 07-24-2009 issue.
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