- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A former clerk for a tiny western Iowa community mismanaged more than $60,000 during several years when her main job was to make sure fire protection services were paid, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

Auditor Mary Mosiman’s report detailed improper or unsupported payments in Grange Township, a small community located in Woodbury County, about 180 miles northwest of Des Moines. Its former clerk, Peggy Powell, is listed as having made the township’s improper disbursements.

The report covered a period between the beginning of 2006 and the end of 2013, roughly the time that Powell worked for the township as clerk. She resigned in November 2013, after multiple attempts from township officials to reach her over the span of about a week. They had recently been notified that the township’s bank account was closed in September due to a prolonged overdrawn status.

George Boykin, chair of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, declined to comment on the audit and directed any questions to Dennis Butler, the county’s finance and operations controller. A message left Tuesday at Butler’s office was not immediately returned.

A public number for Powell was not listed. In a brief resignation letter, she said she is “not competent” to do a job that she described as more of a treasurer’s position.

“I know how much I owe! In the past I have received enough funds to cover. Now, I am losing everything,” she wrote in the letter.

The Township Board of Trustees, a three-member board, has the primary responsibility to oversee fire and ambulance services within the township. Powell was in charge of providing a listing of all township disbursements for approval from the board. The audit shows that rule was not followed properly.

Among the report’s findings was more than $35,000 in ATM withdrawals and fees, some of which came from ATMs at casinos in Iowa and one in Nebraska.

Such transactions were not necessary for a township bank account that was only supposed to be used to pay for fire protection services by check. The audit determined the township had not paid for such services since June 2012, and there were outstanding liabilities for at least two fire departments.

It’s unclear if Powell was ever properly paid a salary. The County Board of Supervisors was supposed to pay her an hourly rate, but a county official said no such arrangement was ever made, and the township’s bank account was not supposed to play a role in her compensation. There were more than $13,000 of payments issued to Powell and her husband from the account, according to bank transactions.

Bank account information for the township showed Powell deposited back more than $36,000 in checks and a money order between December 2007 and August 2013. The source of nearly $9,000 in cash deposits could not be determined.

Other improper withdrawals from the bank account included more than $5,000 to a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization where Powell was treasurer. Some of the money was later returned to the township’s account.

The report has been sent to the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Woodbury County attorney’s office and the attorney general’s office.

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