ANSON — An ongoing investigation into nearly a half-million dollars missing from the town office has already cost the town $40,000 more than what was budgeted this year, and there are plans to spend more money on auditor’s fees as the investigation continues.

Selectmen agreed 5-0 Tuesday night to have auditors review tax records from 2010 as they continue to investigate $438,000 in missing excise fees. The investigation so far has included records from 2011 through last September, when a new computer system was put in place.

Complicating matters is the fact the 2010 tax records are missing from the town office.

“No one knows where they are,” said Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Arnold Luce on Wednesday. “We can’t find them anywhere.”

He said the records have been missing since around March, when the town first started looking into the missing money. Tax Collector Claudia Viles was indicted by a Somerset County grand jury last week on 13 charges related to the missing money, the result of an investigation by the Office of the Maine Attorney General.

“We asked her and she doesn’t know where they are,” Luce said of the 2010 records.

The records can be reproduced by the state electronically, but in the meantime the town is in violation of state law, which requires municipalities to keep six years’ worth of tax records on hand, Luce said.

He said he wasn’t sure whether there would be repercussions for the town for not having the records. Records from January through March of 2013 are also missing.

In the indictment, one of the charges against Viles is tampering with records from 2010 and 2013.

Before Tuesday night’s vote, town Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray told the board that the attorney general’s office recommended that the town conduct an audit of its 2010 tax records after earlier audits this year revealed $438,712 in missing excise tax money that disappeared between 2011 and 2014.

Murray also said the town is over budget for legal and audit fees and will probably have to hold a special town meeting to raise the additional money.

To date the town has already spent $44,900 in auditor’s fees this year after budgeting just $8,000 for auditor’s fees at the annual town meeting in March.

They’ve also spent more than $6,000 in legal fees, originally budgeted at $2,000. The 2010 audit will cost the town an additional $8,000, Murray said.

“It’s probably going to climb more,” she said.

Tim Feeley, a spokesman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, would not comment on whether the attorney general’s office is reviewing tax records before 2010 as part of their investigation.

However, the theft charge brought against Viles in the indictment is subject to a six-year statute of limitations, he said.

Luce said Wednesday that he was not sure whether the board will consider conducting an audit of tax records for years before 2010.

“It costs quite a lot to do an audit, and it’s not clear whether that’s money we’d ever get back,” Luce said.

In a civil lawsuit, the town has alleged that Viles misappropriated the $438,712 between January 2011 and September 2014. She has been tax collector for 42 years and remains in office because town officials say, pending a conviction, they are powerless to remove or put on leave an elected official.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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