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Department of Justice investigation

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Deena Goss, Jefferson County treasurerA Department of Justice investigation of financial irregularities in the Jefferson County Treasurer's Office has resulted in the indictment of Treasurer Deena Goss on 36 counts of misconduct.

Goss, the county's treasurer for the past 11 years, will be arraigned on the charges on Friday, Aug. 8, at 11:30 a.m., in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Attorney Todd Grover, who represents Goss, issued a statement Tuesday, noting, "Ms. Goss steadfastly maintains her innocence, and looks forward to a thorough and public trial of the evidence."

As an elected official, Goss placed herself on administrative leave April 10, when the Oregon Department of Justice opened an investigation into financial irregularities in her office.

In late February, the county had initiated its own investigation after a citizen who had purchased a dog license for $26 complained that his check had been altered to $46 and cashed for that amount.

When the county reviewed the original deposit from Dec. 27, 2013, officials found that the total deposit for the day was correct, but checks were overreported by $20, while cash was underreported by $20, which meant that $20 in cash was missing.

The discovery prompted the county to contact the DOJ, which investigates elected officials, but in the meantime, the county conducted an informal examination of daily reports from the beginning of January 2013 through the end of February 2014, and found additional, similar discrepancies.

County staff found 13 incidents in which changes had been made. The total missing from those incidents was $315.

When she placed herself on administrative leave, Goss appointed Kathie Rohde, county finance director, as deputy treasurer, to perform the duties of the one-person Treasurer's Office. Rohde manages the county's investments and interest allocation with the county's firm.

County Clerk Kathy Marston, who had been preparing deposits and posting receipts in Goss' absence, is continuing to take care of those duties for the county.

"I’m preparing the deposits on a daily basis and posting the receipts and reconciling the cash accounts every day," she said.

Debbie Palmer, senior accountant and tax collector, is also assisting with the duties of the Treasurer's Office by handling the tax turnover for the taxing districts and issuing reports.

In May, the County Commission accepted the recommendation of the County Compensation Board, and reduced Goss's total compensation to an hourly stipend of $30.30 per hour, with a limit of 200 hours per year, and a maximum of 20 per month. Goss' annual salary for 2013-14 was $41,997.12.

In order to be compensated, Goss is required to submit time sheets for the hourly stipend, but she has yet to submit a time sheet.

"She hasn't been paid since June 1, because she hasn't submitted any time sheets," said Rohde.

The Compensation Board also recommended that the county pay Rohde, Marston and Palmer each an additional $1,000 per month for performing the duties of the Treasurer's Office.

Kristina Edmunson, communications director for the Department of Justice, declined to specify what the 36 charges entail.

"This is an ongoing case, so we can't comment beyond that," she noted.

Steve Leriche, Jefferson County district attorney, is not involved with prosecution of the case since it involves another elected official. "I appointed staff of the Department of Justice as my special deputies to handle the matter," he said.

Earlier investigation

The current investigation of Goss is the second by the Department of Justice. In 2010, Sheriff Jim Adkins asked the DOJ to look into nearly $8,000 which was missing over a three-year period from the inmate trust fund.

Focusing on Goss, who deposited the money for the Sheriff's Office, the investigator determined that there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Deena Goss committed any crimes."

However, he wrote in his report, "It is highly suspicious that accounting problems arise exclusively when Goss handles cash. This suspicion is fueled by the fact that every time there is a discrepancy regarding cash and Goss, money is missing, as opposed to extra funds."

The commission considered disciplining Goss for her role in handling the inmate trust fund, as well as violation of county investment policy, but when the report was released in January 2011, instead issued a public apology to Goss.

The County Commission can control compensation for elected officials, but does not control their employment. According to Marston, the clerk remains in office until she resigns or is recalled.

Goss was appointed in 2003 to fill out the term of the retiring treasurer, and was then elected in 2004, and re-elected in 2008 and 2012. Her current term extends through 2016.

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