5th Person Arrested in Armstrong Corruption Case, Misappropriation Dates Back to 2016
The Iowa Attorney General's office is charging a fifth Armstrong, Iowa official in connection with the ongoing investigation in the town. The investigation has so far resulted in the arrest of the town's Mayor Greg Buum, City Clerk Tracie Lang, Police Chief Craig Merrill, and former City Clerk Connie Thackery.
Mary Kate Staton, a former city clerk, has been arrested and charged with third-degree theft as well as one count of tampering with records. Both charges are considered aggravated misdemeanors.
Staton surrendered herself Tuesday morning and has appeared before a magistrate in the same day.
According to arrest reports, she was also arrested in 2017 for “loud and raucous noise” toward certain individuals, along with making certain offensive hand gestures. In this case, Staton was arrested alongside Taylor Evans, another city employee.
The corruption in this town of 880 isn't new. Estherville News reported in 2017 on an audit performed on the city's finances. Staton was named in this investigation as well.
During the audit, dated March 28, 2017, Iowa Auditor of State Mary Mosiman found roughly $88,600 in undeposited utility collections and $12,050.10 in improper and unsupported payouts.
The audit revealed that the improper and unsupported payouts included penalties, late fees and interest to the IRS, as well as other vendors and providers.
Mosiman found the loss to the city of Armstrong for improper financial management amounted to $100,000.
The City first contacted authorities in 2016, citing a lack of cash deposited for pool and utility bills for several months.
The Sheriff's Office removed financial records from city hall, where they found an envelope "containing a significant amount of cash, uncounted and undeposited."
In the report, Mosiman noted, “As a result of the concerns identified and confusion regarding the cash collections, we determined it was appropriate to perform a special investigation.”
Their investigation was complicated when they were notified by city officials that a computer update in May of 2016 caused a failure resulting in the loss of all financial information stored in their accounting system.
“We were unable to verify the computer failure [and] we were unable to locate sufficient records in City Hall," the report stated.
The City was also reportedly unable to locate paper copies of a general ledger which would've been printed before the computer's failure.
Staton, who oversaw payroll checks, as well as her live-in partner, Tylor Evans, were found to have received $2,622.45 in improper payments. The payments were mostly in the form of checks written by Staton herself and Evans.
Evans also reportedly received four overtime payments that were unable to be linked to any specific pay period. A fifth overtime payment was then found to have been issued, but never approved by the City's council.
Staton was reported to have written herself checks for vision and dental, but had no paperwork to substantiate any expenses. She also was found to have written herself a check totaling $300 for a cell phone allowance, but the city had no such policy.
The audit also found that Staton issued herself a check for $605.82. The check was cosigned by Mayor Greg Buum, who was arrested Friday, but no documentation was provided as to what the check was for.
Staton was paid $936 by the city for 72 hours of paid time off, but city policy states no more than 40 hours should have been paid, which should've amounted to $520 at her wage.
As more comes to light about the corruption in Armstrong's city government, surely more officials will be investigated to find out how many people were involved in the corruption.