State Auditor Releases Scathing Report On Small Sanpete County Town
FAYETTE, Utah – There are several reasons to live in small towns.
Brenda Leifson knew right away she made the right choice to live in Fayette, in Sanpete County, nine years ago.
“It’s very quiet,” she said with a smile. “If you’re having a problem, you call somebody up and 90% of the time they’ll be there to help you.”
Sometimes, though, knowing everybody can make things harder when difficult decisions have to be made.
“It’s been tough. Like, it really has been tough,” said Leifson. “I have some supporters, some people that are happy that I found it.”
Leifson is the mayor of Fayette, a town of about 250 people just north of Gunnison off Highway 28.
Almost as soon as she got into office last year, she noticed something was wrong with the accounting the town clerk had been doing for almost nine years.
“I knew what the right thing was to do,” said Leifson.
Wednesday, the Utah State Auditor released its report on the investigation into misuse of public funds in Fayette.
Even though former town clerk Tracy Mellor has already finished her 45-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to a check scheme where she took nearly $300,000 from the town, the auditor recommends the town needs to do better.
“Well, clearly some of the things are to put in the controls that should have been there in the first place,” said John Dougall, who is the Utah State Auditor.
Dougall says a town clerk and town treasurer shouldn’t be the same person, like Mellor was.
Also, Dougall isn’t sure how previous town councils and mayors didn’t catch her fraud.
Mellor was writing town checks to her husband’s company.
When the bank sent the canceled check back to the town for bookkeeping purposes, Mellor would place the logo or stamp of a company the town does business with over the name of her husband’s company on the check.
She would then photocopy the check and file the photocopy into town records.
“It looked like town officials were basically asleep at the wheel,” said Dougall. “I mean, if you look at a bank statement, if you see something or ask for certain financial records, you would quickly figure out something is amiss. This was not a complex theft. But, it’s just, they were just asleep at the wheel from our perspective.”
Dougall also recommends town leaders in place before last year resign, and if replacements can’t be found, the town should considerunincorporating.
“My next three years I hope I can just help Fayette repair and be a little better,” said Leifson.
She feels a small town like hers is worth fighting for.
“I know we can do it,” said Leifson. “I know that Fayette can do it.”
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