Dummer tax collector fired over missing $100K, tells newspaper she used money for Disney trip
DUMMER - The town's tax collector walked into the offices of a local newspaper Monday and confessed to taking at least $100,000 in town funds for herself, including using taxpayers dollars to pay for a family trip to Disney.
Mariann Letarte confession to the Berlin Daily Sun came as an independent audit of town books uncovered what appears to be years of misappropriations.
“I couldn’t live with it anymore,” she told the newspaper, explaining that her blood pressure was elevated and she was suffering dizzy spells. “I’m ready for whatever happens."
Selectmen fired Letarte and has begun the process of removing her as town clerk and tax collector. The independent audit found “compelling evidence of the misappropriation of funds, attempts to conceal these items from the selectmen and treasurer and intentional misstatement of the town’s financial statements.”
Coos County Attorney John McCormick said he could not comment on the investigation. Letarte has not been charged with any criminal complaints.
She said she tried to turn herself in to Berlin Police after an initial audit was released to selectmen March 30, but was told the department had no jurisdiction. She told the reporter she has since been interviewed by state police.
The completed audit was released May 10 and showed a total of $103,623 was misappropriated between January 2011 and March 2016. The report said $96,628 were checks and electronic fund transfers from the town’s general fund checking and $6,994 were charges to the town’s credit card. Auditors wrote their findings were limited to only the town's checking accounts and credit cards, and there could be more money missing.
She told the newspaper there are charges to Disney Resort, Delta Air, and Hotels.com were for a family vacation and not town business.
She told the newspaper she did not have an attorney representing her and she has nothing to hide. She said she wished to apologize to the people in town.
“I wish I could explain, I can’t explain. I took such pride in my work. I wasn’t brought up this way,” she said.
Letarte was described as a popular, serving in several roles in the town's leadership. She was hired as the town administrative assistant and elected as town clerk/tax collector. She also served as the town's emergency management director and bookkeeper for the Milan-Dummer Ambulance. Town Meeting voters recently raised her pay as administrative assistant from $19 to $20 an hour.
The town fired her as administrative assistant and is now going through the legal process of removing her as an elected official which must be done through the courts.