The McLeod County Sheriff’s Office has completed an investigation into alleged overpayment of township funds to two members of the Acoma Township Board.
McLeod County Sheriff Scott Rehmann said a report was submitted to the McLeod County Attorney’s Office early this past week. It will be up to McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge to decide whether to pursue formal charges. The Leader has requested a copy of the report from the sheriff’s office. Most of what is known about the matter comes from Acoma Township’s meeting minutes.
On Aug. 7, current supervisors Larry Ashwill, Chuck Hausladen and Tom Dahl of the Acoma Township Board met in a special meeting with past supervisors Larry Karg, Eugene Hoff and Lynn Splittgerber. The meeting was called to discuss wages paid to now former treasurer Gary Graham and former clerk Corrinne Schlueter.
According to the minutes, current clerk Stephanie Zetah brought to the Board’s attention that Graham’s 2019 pay was more than what was approved. Ashwill said that according to information on W2s, Schlueter’s gross total last year was $13,500, and Graham’s was $10,037. Their Board salaries were $5,100 and $5,600, respectively. Splittgerber said there was evidence of hiding information, and an overpayment of $52,000 to the clerk and treasurer over the past eight years.
Karg, according to meeting minutes, said he was concerned Graham had destroyed data. He later said no motion had been made to pay either position additional hourly wages — ostensibly the source of additional pay. The Board had signed the checks, he said, but had never seen any time sheets.
Other former supervisors confirmed never having approved the addition of hourly pay. Karg brought up that in the past, the Board was concerned the treasurer and clerk were doing more work than was paid to their positions, and later added that he had leaned on Schlueter to do extra work that wasn’t in his skill set. Hoff said he asked them to track their hours so they could re-evaluate salary each year “if need be.” But he never was shown a time sheet, and no motion was made to allow hourly wages on top of salary.
The minutes say, “The board isn’t insinuating this was all intentional and recognize it could simply be mistakes being made, however, it is enough to assume the treasurer is no longer performing his duties adequately and needs to resign.” A motion was passed asking Graham to “pay the money back or resign.”
Following the special meeting, another was held Aug. 9 with members of the sheriff’s office present. The findings of the Aug. 7 meeting were given, as were other documents including W2s and meeting minutes.
On Wednesday morning, Graham said he had left the Acoma Township Board and denied any wrongdoing.
“They gave me so much crap. I was the only old-timer on the Board. Everyone else was new and they wanted to do their own thing,” he said. “I was the easiest to get rid of.”
He said discrepancies in the township’s funds were because checks aren’t always cashed the month they are written, such as was the case with the purchase of a road grader. He said such checks are carried over, and that had happened multiple times. He said he had gone back and balanced everything “to the penny” for the past three years, and asked the Board if it wanted to review it.
“It was easier to accuse us of stealing and let the state deal with it,” Graham said.
He said he had provided all information the Board asked for, with the exception of allowing information on his personal computer to be reviewed.
“It’s personal information,” Graham said. “But anything else they asked me I would go through and give it. ... They had all the information and they signed off on it every month.”
Schlueter’s 16 years on the Acoma Township Board ended at the end of 2018. She also denied any wrongdoing.
“I did an awful lot to hold this township together,” she said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Hausladen, the current Acoma Township Board vice chair, said the Board had done its best to address a situation it inherited from past years, which was why it sought the counsel of past supervisors.
“We were new to this,” he said. “We saw a leak and we wanted to plug it. We did. And we turned it over to the sheriff’s office.”
He said Graham didn’t leave the Board immediately following the Aug. 7 resolution. The Board later made a rule requiring all official business be done at the town hall. When Graham left, the position was filled by the Board.