PASCO, Wash. -- While the state attorney general's office continues to investigate the alleged embezzlement of $2.8 million by former Franklin County Public works accountant Dennis Huston, NBC Right Now has uncovered new details about the anonymous letter sent to a county commissioner which raises questions about who knew of Huston's past.
"In hindsight, there is really more that could have been done, but I did at the time what I thought was the right thing to do," says Commissioner Rick Miller who received the letter at home in April of 2009. Miller told reporter Lisa Loevsky his wife did indeed write it, but he didn't know it was from her at the time. Rick Miller says after he received the letter, he let the prosecutor at the time, Steve Lowe handle the investigation. Lowe decided to let the FBI handle the investigation.
Miller said, it started with an anonymous call with information about possible fraud involving Dennis Huston's past criminal record. He asked the caller to come forward to the auditor, but the caller wanted to remain anonymous. Miller said he suggested the caller write a letter and told him his wife, Brigitte, who is an investigator at Hanford has experience dealing with such matters.
When Miller did receive the letter,on April 11, 2009, he said it had very detailed information and that's why he didn't initially suspect his wife. He did say the two of them did not write the letter together and when he told the FBI about the letter, he said he didn't know who the author was.
Miller said, months later when he learned his wife did indeed write it, he told FBI investigators about it.
Miller says his wife, the FBI and the prosecutor at the time, Steve Lowe were not the only ones who knew about what was in the letter. He says when the investigation began, he filled out a form for the state auditor where he marked "yes" for a box that read "Do you know of any fraud going on in the county?"
Miller also says he wasn't the only commissioner who knew about the letter. He said when he received it, he asked Commissioner Brad Peck if he got a letter as well. "He did not see the letter to my knowledge, but I did explain the facts with the letter," says Miller.
Pecks says he never saw letter, and doesn't know what was in it.
"I do realize a lot of people are blaming the commissioners. I do think a lot of the commissioners are trying to overact and say I'm doing this and this, because I've only been here for this long. I do believe that's happening. I do think it's an election year so its hard on these people, these two to cover these tracks like this. its hard," says Miller.
Miller says part of the problem is that there were close relationships between many of the parties involved, from the former auditor to Mr. Huston to Tim Fife, the former Public Works Director and Huston's boss.
Miller says Fife told him the letter was based on a bunch of rumors, and when the FBI didn't find any substance to it, he trusted their findings. Miller also says their current policies are outdated, and they are now making some big changes.
Miller said, Dennis Huston had the final stamp of approval on all vouchers,something he said should have been over looked by others. "That's where Tim Fife, and maybe the county manager and maybe the auditor, and maybe the commissioners, we did do what we could. but how far can you go on that?," explains Miller.
One of the changes commissioners have recently made includes updating their financial software. The county spent $1.25million dollars on software several weeks ago to prevent these kinds of problems in the future.
An independent investigator is looking into all this and there is a preliminary report of their findings. However, despite our requests, it is not being released to the media at this time. One of the reasons is that the investigation is not yet complete.
This story is developing.