By Ron VandenBoom
Havre Police Chief Kevin Olson told reporters during a press conference in City Hall Thursday that the theft of $10,679 from Havre's city court was an isolated incident that to his knowledge was a first for the community.
"This is an isolated incident," Olson said. "People can rest easy knowing this is not a tide of mishandling."
Hill County Attorney David Rice filed charges against 39-year-old Joan Daulton on Dec. 29 for the offense of theft and tampering with public records after a routine inspection of city court records in August 2000 revealed discrepancies.
Daulton, also known as Joan Norden, was the Havre City Court clerk from December 1997 until her discharge on Aug. 28, 2000.
A complete audit conducted by Gordon Thompson of the Hamilton Consulting Group and additional investigation by Havre police Capt. Mike Barthel and Agent Kenneth G. Thompson of the Montana Department of Justice confirmed the extent of the shortage.
Olson said the city went to an outside third party to conduct the audit and involved the Department of Justice because "we wanted to make sure there were no allegations of cover-up."
"We wanted to make sure that the people are confident that the City of Havre operates its day-to-day business affairs in an effective and efficient manner," Olson said.
A search of Daulton's east Havre home on Aug. 23 also turned up missing receipts and time pay cards. Daulton reportedly told investigators that she kept track of the money she took with the intention of paying it back.
Olson said it's unfortunate that the city, like any business, is not immune from being victimized by people intent on committing criminal acts and he praised Havre City Court Judge Joyce Perszyk for her time and effort in aiding the investigation.
"Everything she did was com-pletely appropriate and timely in the way she notified the police and the long hours she spent with investigators trying to bring this case to as swift of a conclusion as possible," Olson told reporters.
Perszyk, who also participated in the press conference, acknowledged that it was a lot of long hours running the court without a clerk while also working with the investigators.
Havre Mayor Phyllis Leonard told reporters that because city employees are bonded, the city will not lose any funds as a result of the theft.
Olson said it is not uncommon for the court and the police department to deal with cash on a regular basis. This includes posting for bonds and time pay agreements.
Because of the small staff at city court, Olson said, it is not uncommon for people to come in and pay at the service counter at the police department.
Olson said the clerk will come to the police department and sign off on the receipts, take the money to city court, and receipt it into the court receiving system.
"That's kind of where the avenue was for the opportunity," Olson said.