Volume 106, Number 17 - April 23, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Councilman sends letter to attorney general
On the evening of April 13, the letter was sent to the governor’s office.
By Monday, April 20, it had been referred to the Wyoming Attorney General’s office, which has since initiated an active investigation.
Councilman Dave Smith is the one who penned, signed and sent the letter, after Pinedale’s Town Council failed to take action at last Monday’s council meeting on the issue of Mayor Stephen Smith’s use of the town credit card.
“The thing that pisses me off most right now is that I told (the council) at the meeting that if they got rid of those cards, I would cease and desist,” said councilman Smith. “But they don’t want to listen.”
In the opening line of the letter addressed to Governor Dave Freudenthal, councilman Smith summarized his request:
“This letter is a request for a formal investigation of alleged improper credit card use by Pinedale Mayor Stephen B. Smith.”
The letter goes on to detail the allegations brought by councilman Smith, which include the use of the credit card on two separate occasions for private use, as well as the mayor’s visit to Washington D.C. for the presidential inauguration.
Last November, the mayor charged $102.93 on the town credit card for a purchase at Country Lane Liquor.
According to the mayor, he overlooked the charge when he went over the bills, thinking it was a charge for gas, since the adjoining gas station and convenience store is also called Country Lane.
But after the charge was brought to light, he reimbursed the town.
He also had a charge at the Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne, which he had paid back at the time.
And during the inauguration trip, the purse of Mayor Smith’s wife turned up missing, which prompted the mayor to cancel his credit cards as well, since they had a joint account on the cards.
The mayor then used the town credit card for various charges during the remainder of the trip, accruing charges he promptly reimbursed to the town upon his return to Pinedale.
“The town attorney looked into it,” said Mayor Smith. “And he doesn’t see any criminal activity whatsoever.”
But councilman Smith insists that up to three state statutes were violated, though he was not sure which specific statutes they are. And because the attorney general’s office is now investigating the issue, it, too, could not provide any state statutes that might apply.
Councilman Smith’s biggest problem with the issue is two-fold.
For one, the mayor didn’t notify the council about these issues until a public citizen voiced his concern.
“The timing is just all wrong,” said councilman Smith. “It’s all damage control.”
Secondly, the council refused to take action on the issue, thereby forcing his hand.
“I was really frustrated and ticked off after that meeting on Monday night,” said councilman Smith. “This whole situation could have been avoided, and it wasn’t. (The council) just ignored me.”
While the mayor would prefer that time and energy be spent on more pressing issues confronting the town, he feels that the law is on his side.
“I had no intent of defrauding the town or anybody else,” he said. “If Dave wants to move forward with (the letter) and wants somebody else to get involved at taxpayers’ expense, that’s his right.
“He’s doing it on his own, without the support of the council.”
In the meantime, town attorney Ed Wood has already drafted a potential credit card policy that clearly spells out the covered expenses for town employees, and it will be discussed at the next town council meeting.
Councilman Smith is convinced that this too is a “damage control” tactic by the town, but he’s pleased to see that the whole ordeal is moving through the proper channels.
“I’m so glad it’s in Cheyenne,” he said. “Those guys can take care of it. And it may turn out that it’s no big deal, and I’ll be the first to go (into town hall) and say I was wrong.
“But I think we’re in for a shit storm, quite honestly.”
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