Another Franklin County official in trouble with the law

Another Franklin County official in trouble with the law »Play Video
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. -- Connell Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-Tem Monica Pruett faces felony theft and money laundering charges. The allegations are surprising when you consider Pruett's contributions to Connell.

Pruett has yet to be officially charged with two felonies. Neighbors in Connell are devastated and confused by the charges against their elected city official.

"It's shocking and appalling but we're still a family and it's a small town and she's still our friend," said Mary Nickel.

Pruett has long served her community. Not only is she a council woman, she was elected Mayor Pro Tem. She manages the Chamber of Commerce. Even drives the town's ambulance and is a certified EMT, trained to save lives.

Any one of those positions would make you wonder how such an upstanding person could be accused of an ongoing theft, lasting 12 years and amounting to more than $150,000.

Farm owner Bill Swenson never expected someone so ingrained in the community could seemingly use that position to her advantage.

KEPR spoke with the management company who now handles the day to day business here on the farm for Bill Swensen. They took over shortly after the allegations about the theft surfaced. We were told that despite the losses outlined in the lawsuit paperwork, business on the farm has never been better. They do expect business to continue to grow.

The theft wasn't discovered until the farm realized it owed $100,000 to a Yakima company. Pruett was fired as bookkeeper but it took much of the summer for deputies to follow the money trail and determine whether a crime was committed.

Mary Nickel insists, "I don't care what happens. She, we love her. Even if she is proven guilty I don't care, she's still my friend."

This case comes on the heels of a previous embezzlement allegation from someone in power in Franklin County. The former head of accounting for Franklin County Public Works, Dennis Huston is accused of embezzling millions.

It's left people not knowing who to trust.

"Not even my momma. I'd be checking, I'd be making sure the figures were right," said resident John Carlton.

Calls to the farm's owner, Bill Swensen have yet to be returned. Pruett is still in jail on just $5,000 bail.

She is expected to be formally charged this week. The charge could include an aggravating factor due to the length of time and the severe impact on the business.