Goss indictment may not cover all Jefferson County discrepancies

Jefferson County treasurer to be arraigned Friday

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin

Published Aug 6, 2014 at 12:01AM

The indictment of Jefferson County Treasurer Deena Goss on 36 counts of theft, forgery and official misconduct last week covers only a fraction of the suspicious transactions identified in a review of 14 months of the county’s books.

Goss, the treasurer since 2003, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning on 14 counts each of third-degree theft and official misconduct, and eight counts of second-degree forgery.

County officials contacted the Oregon Department of Justice after a resident complained that a $26 check written to the county for a dog license had been cashed for $46.

The “2” written on the check by the resident appeared to have been altered to a “4,” a county investigation found, while separately, $20 in cash recorded as received by the county on the same day was missing from the county’s deposit at U.S. Bank.

The county’s investigation indicates $315 went missing due to manipulation of the county’s cash and check deposits.

Goss’ indictment is based upon 11 days between September 2013 and January 2014 on which the checks and cash deposited at the bank were out of balance with the records kept by the various county departments. However, the county investigation found 76 such days between January and March 2014; county administrative officer Jeff Rasmussen said a handful have been determined to be clerical errors, but most remain unresolved.

Rasmussen said the initial investigation focused on the 11 days due to the time needed to locate copies of the original checks, deposit slips and department-by-department financial records for any one day that appeared out of balance.

“Each one of these takes about four hours to do, each of those we turned over to DOJ with the attachments,” Rasmussen said. “And we turned those over to DOJ and said, ‘Is this enough?’ And they said it was.”

Rasmussen said the DOJ has not asked the county for any records concerning the additional daily discrepancies identified in the county’s investigation.

DOJ spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said it’s not yet clear if the state will seek additional information to possibly bring additional charges against Goss.

If not for the apparently altered dog license check, small discrepancies like those found during the investigation could have gone undetected for years, Rasmussen said.

In the course of the investigation, county officials learned that U.S. Bank routinely makes adjustments to bring large accounts into balance. Rasmussen said U.S. Bank would not reveal how large an adjustment it will make to “correct” an account, but it is his understanding it’s limited to sums too small to justify the time and expense associated with looking into the discrepancy.

Goss’ attorney, Todd Grover of Bend, said he could not speak to the specifics of the case against his client.

“Ms. Goss steadfastly maintains her innocence and looks forward to a trial,” Grover said.

Although Goss remains the treasurer, and as an elected official cannot be stripped of her position barring a voter-initiated recall, county officials have reined in her duties and sharply cut her compensation.

In April, commissioners asked county Finance Director Kathie Rohde to serve as temporary custodian of the county’s funds and investments. Since then, Goss has not been authorized to accept deposits, make fund transfers or make any investment or withdrawal of county funds.

In May, commissioners convened the county compensation board, which sets wages and benefits for elected officials. With help from the board, commissioners stripped the treasurer’s position of all health and retirement benefits and instituted a “stipend” system under which Goss would be paid $30.30 an hour for up to 20 hours a month, and no more than 200 hours a year.

Goss’ prior total compensation package had been $66,368, and it was set to increase to $67,442 at the start of the budget year on July 1.

Rasmussen said Rohde and County Clerk Kathy Marston are receiving additional compensation as they now handle some of the duties previously performed by Goss. Goss did not do any work for the county in June or July, he said, and has not been paid since the new compensation system was put in place.

Goss was investigated by the Department of Justice in 2011 after the disappearance of nearly $8,000 from an account for inmates at the Jefferson County jail, and by the county commission in connection with the investment of $20 million in county funds in corporate debt notes in violation of county policy and state law. Both investigations concluded there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against her.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com