By Barbara Tetreault
Berlin Daily Sun
DUMMER — Citing gross misconduct, the Dummer select board has removed Mariann Letarte as town clerk/tax collector. She had previously been terminated as the board’s administrative assistant.
The three-member board voted unanimously last week to remove her from the two positions and issued a notice of decision that was publicly released Wednesday.
The notice stated an investigation of the town’s financial records by the certified public account firm Carew & Wells found “compelling evidence of the misappropriation of funds, attempts to conceal these items from the selectmen and treasurer, and intentional misstatement of the town’s financial statements.”
The termination took effect July 20 and her health insurance benefits from the town will terminate at the end of the month. The town is currently advertising the part-time position. The board had suspended Letarte as town clerk/tax collector on May 25 but because the position was elected, the board had to follow a formal removal procedure.
Letarte has not been charged with any crimes in connection with her handling of Dummer town finances but Coos County Attorney John McCormick has confirmed there is an investigation underway.
In the notice to Letarte, the board said a report prepared by Carew & Wells identified $103,623 in town funds Letarte had spent since 2011 on items that appear to have been for her personal benefit.
The board noted that in her response to the report, Letarte had disputed some of the charges identified by Carew & Wells and argued they were for town business. But the notice pointed out that she did not challenge thousands of dollars in expenditures, such as checks to Direct TV and Toyota and credit card charges to Disney Resorts, Expedia and Jetblue, that were unrelated to the town. The select board said the Carew & Wells report found instances where the town’s bank statements had been modified and what appeared to be forged invoices.
The notice said Letarte did not dispute those assertions in her response and she wrote that she had confessed what she was doing at the Dummer town office to Berlin police on March 30.
The board said it could not find Letarte locally to notify her that she could request a hearing before the board voted to terminate her. Instead the town ended up serving her at the Wagon Wheel RV Resort in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, on July 1 by tracking a check to the resort written on the town’s bank account.
“We are saddened, and very disappointed, by what we have learned over the past several months. You were an official entrusted with a great deal of responsibility for the town for many years. People relied on you and elected you to do the right thing for the town,” the board wrote.
In an earlier statement, the board said it is now looking at the town’s revenues and whether they were properly deposited into the town’s account.
Letarte declined to comment on the notice of termination. She can appeal the board’s decision to Coos County Superior Court.
Barbara Tetreault is managing editor at the Berlin Daily Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org