Report: County funds may be missing

By Sarah Meyer: CNJ staff writer

Court documents show Curry County may be missing $7,200 in funds from the 2007 Curry County Fair.

State police executed a search warrant at the county courthouse on Monday, County Manager Lance Pyle confirmed.

The search warrant allowed police to examine documents, electronic data, information and correspondence related to County Fair revenues.

The warrant also sought documents related to personal financial transactions and the personnel file of County Treasurer Rhonda Bookout.

No one has been arrested in connection with the warrant.

County officials previously said they had asked state police to investigate possibly unaccounted for funds related to the fair.
The search warrant indicates state police investigators found $7,200.56 unaccounted for.
The document reports:

—A deposit of $3,687.30 for a motocross event that cannot be verified;

—The county fair began with $51,500 in start-up money. Payouts total $9,586.74, and $39,505 were redeposited, leaving $2,408.26 unaccounted for; and

—The county treasurer reported that $12,890 was collected in gate receipts. Of this amount, it appears that $11,785 was paid to event promoters, leaving $1,105 unaccounted for.

The warrant also states, “It appears several attempts have been made to reconcile the accounts. The latest entry was made on December 26, 2007, in which $3,708.65 was transferred to the Motor Cross (sic) account. This entry cannot be verified by bank records and appears to be a ‘paper transaction’ only.”

According to the document, Justus Anderson, who was fairgrounds manager before resigning last month, reported a disagreement between County Treasurer Bookout and Tod Hammock of Cycle City Productions over the amount of money collected for the motocross event.

Hammock told the Clovis News Journal on Thursday that the county handled the collection and disbursement of funds from the event.
“That’s the way it’s been done the last three years,” he said.

Anderson said he did not know how money from fair ticket sales was divided, how much money was earned during the event, and that he was not involved in counting the money, according to the warrant.

Bookout declined to comment when a CNJ reporter asked if money actually is missing or if a clerical error may have occurred.

Bookout also declined an interview with the investigator, unless she had a lawyer present, according to the document. Hammock did not answer the investigator’s questions either, directing him to Hammock’s attorney, according to the documents.

On Thursday, Bookout declined comment to the CNJ about why she did not meet with the investigator or whether she has retained legal council. She did say she followed proper procedure when she processed the funds.

County Finance Director Mark Lansford provided documents to the state police during the investigation.

An inventory obtained with a copy of the search warrant indicates that state police seized:

— A flash drive;
—A computer mouse;
—A laptop computer;
—Two computer discs;
—Public and employee personnel file of Bookout; and
—Personal bank account information of Bookout.

New Mexico State Police Lt. Rick Anglada said the case is still under investigation and charges, if any, have not been determined.

“We plan on submitting the entire investigative report to the district attorney,” he said.

Pyle declined to comment on what if any action the county would take on the matter.

— Staff writers Sharna Johnson and Gabriel Monte contributed to this report.