SKOWHEGAN — With recent allegations of theft, tax fraud and tampering with public documents at county and municipal offices in Somerset County, Skowhegan’s town clerk and treasurer said she has had to answer questions from the public about where their money is going and if it’s safe.

“People are asking what happens to the money at the front desk,” Town Clerk and Treasurer Gail Pelotte said. “It goes to the vault. We make deposits on a daily basis. They wanted to know who took care of the money once it came in and was receipted by the town. I told them I did, I took care of the money.”

Pelotte, the elected town clerk and treasurer since 2009 and a town employee working in the Town Office since 1995, said the front desk takes in cash for property taxes, registrations, various permits and dog licenses. Some people write checks or use credit or debit cards, but there are fees associated with the cards, which adds to the transaction, she said.

Many people still use cash at the Town Office, she said.

“They are concerned with things they have read in the paper about other towns,” Pelotte said. “We have a lot of checks and balances here, and every month I do the reconciliations.”

The paper trail leads from Pelotte to Trisha Austin, the town finance officer. All of the financial reports are delivered to the Board of Selectmen on a monthly basis, Pelotte said.

“Every month the selectmen see what is coming in, what’s going certain places, and if they have any questions, they see myself or Trisha or (Town Manager) Christine (Almand), who is the tax collector,” she said. “They get reports monthly.”

Municipal customers paying in cash are first given a receipt and the information is recorded on a town computer. Cash is counted daily and checks and cash are deposited at Bangor Savings Bank. Cash is not kept overnight at the office.

The concern in Skowhegan comes in light of recent indictments in Somerset County.

Claudia Viles, former tax collector for the town of Anson, pleaded not guilty to 13 Somerset County charges related to tax fraud Sept. 17 in a court appearance in Augusta.

Viles, who resigned from the job Sept. 10, is charged with theft, five counts of failure to make or file state income tax returns, six counts of failure to file or pay state income taxes and tampering with public records. The charges stem from an investigation by the Office of the Maine Attorney General into $438,712 in missing excise tax money from the Anson Town Office.

Viles’ next court date is Oct. 28 in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan. She is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Meanwhile, a former clerk at the district attorney’s office in Skowhegan also pleaded not guilty on Sept. 17 to an indictment charging her with embezzling an estimated $85,000 in restitution and supervision fees paid to that office over a four-year period.

Julie A. Smith, 58, of Skowhegan, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of theft, which allegedly occurred from April 2010 to October 2014, and to a misdemeanor charge of tampering with public records from June 2010 to July 2014.

The latter charge says Smith falsified entries about restitution payments. Smith is free on a $5,000 unsecured bail bond with no special conditions, and the judge set the case for a dispositional conference Nov. 18 and a docket call Feb. 1. Smith’s initial hearing was in Augusta, but future hearings will be held in Skowhegan at the Somerset County Courthouse.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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