LITTLE ROCK — Federal authorities are investigating a shortage of more than $162,000 in Lafayette County’s bank account, a special prosecutor in the case said Wednesday.
Ian Vickery of El Dorado, who was appointed special prosecutor after Lafayette County Prosecutor Carlton Jones recused himself, said he has been talking with Conner Eldridge, U.S. attorney of the Western District of Arkansas, for several weeks and recently agreed to federal prosecutors and the FBI handle the case.
"We have a working relationship with the U.S. attorney’s office and that office is taking the case because they have a better statutory scheme to deal with something like this," Vickery said.
He said he has been told the case will be presented to a federal grand jury in July or August.
"I think it’s ready to be presented," Vickery said.
Eldridge declined to comment Wednesday.
On June 6, state auditors told a legislative panel that $162,274 in deposits in the county’s tax collection bank accounts could not be accounted for during the period from Jan. 1, 2011 to Sept. 20, 2012. Auditors said they found cash shortages of $92,391 in current and delinquent tax accounts in 2011 and $69,884 in those accounts through Sept. 20, 2012.
Auditors said they also found funds unaccounted for in the county sheriff’s office, including bond and fine payments that exceeded bank deposits by $905, as well as over payments to vendors and disbursements to elected officials, including the sheriff, and others with questionable or missing documentation.
The shortages were not detected earlier because the county treasurer and collector are the same person, and because delinquent tax settlements to taxing units were made using other funds under the treasurer’s control, auditors told the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee
The report said the treasurer-collector, Keesha Rose, "did not adhere to state laws, county policies or proper accounting procedures relating to the proper depositing of receipts," which amounted to "significant control deficiency."
Rose, who attended the audit committee meeting along with her husband, Lafayette County Sheriff Victor Rose, denied any wrongdoing, saying she wrote checks from the accounts to the county clerk and they never bounced. She said the office has used the same collection process for 14 years.
She served as chief deputy of the office until being elected treasurer-collector in 2010.
The treasurer-collector said Wednesday that she has not talked with any federal authorities about the audit.
"Nobody has asked me for anything and nobody has asked anything," she said.
Keesha Rose said she would be willing to meet with federal investigators.
"Yes sir, I most certainly would because I have absolutely nothing to hide," she said. "I am the custodian of the records. I am not the only person that works down there, I’m just the only one named because I’m the boss."
She also said she has not hired a lawyer because she has not been charged and "I don’t want anyone to think I’m guilty because I’ve lawyered up."
Her husband, the county sheriff, also he had not talked with any federal investigators but was willing to if asked.
"I’m just going to let the federal authorities do what they’ve got to do and I’m willing, and she is to, in anything they need," he said.