Fraud in Franklin County: Could it have been avoided?

Fraud in Franklin County: Could it have been avoided? »Play Video
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash., -- The case of multi-million dollar fraud in Franklin County continues to unfold. KEPR has obtained a copy of the anonymous letter left at Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller's doorstep three years ago, claiming Dennis Huston was guilty of felony embezzlement. Numerous investigations show at least some officials knew about the potential fraud years ago. Rick miller knows you can't always trust everything you read. Miller says, "You cant just go off assumption, because of slander and defamation. You can get sued."

The Franklin County commissioner is now opening up about the anonymous letter left on his doorstep 3 years ago. He claimed to have no idea who wrote the letter - which is why he handed it off to higher officials rather than taking direct action on it himself.

Miller tells KEPR, "It's not my job to broadcast that to the commissioners."

Miller says he gave the letter to the Prosecuting attorney, where it was then taken to the FBI. The letter questioned Dennis Huston's employment with the county after serving time in a federal prison for stealing money from the government. A federal investigation was kicked off because of the letter - but wrapped up about a year later and found "nothing." It turns out Commissioner Miller could have gone right to the source.

KEPR asked, "Did you have any inkling who wrote the letter?"
Miller replied, "I know who wrote the letter and I know who the informer is. I cant mention anyone in the privacy of this right now. I just can't. They've asked for privacy until this is over with and possibly that can come out."

Rumor here at the courthouse are that Rick Miller's very own wife wrote the letter. Miller says, "Here's what I say to that. Who cares who wrote the letter. Who cares who gave the letter. We have a case and its large. Its more important that we prevent this from happening again."

Taxpayers may certainly care that Miller knows who wrote the letter - if it meant something more could have been done to prevent embezzlement of your money. The county is now alleging Dennis Huston may be responsible for the theft of nearly $3 million. While he has not been charged with a crime, he was fired from public works and the county is now going after Huston and his wife in a civil suit hoping to recoup what was lost. The letter questioning Huston's background didnt uncover the alleged theft. and in the meantime, miller has sat on the board of commissioners. Every month, Public works director Tim Fife came in monthly, approving financial statements. Rick Miller explains, "During this time, yeah, you wonder whats going on. You kinda keep an eye out, you look, listen. But I can’t micro manage these departments."

KEPR asked the commissioner, "Couldn't you have authorized an audit?"
He replies, "I was asked by the state auditor, they send us a card, if there's any fraud and I checked yes. That's why we have a dept. head and they were aware of it, I understand they were aware of this situation."

Fife was fired from Public works Monday after spending more than a month on paid leave. The county decided he failed as a leader - but don't think he participated in the theft. Miller stands by his actions on the anonymous letter and his leadership. He says, "I feel I did all I could at that time."

Time will tell if more might have been done, as taxpayer money was bled from the county, one bogus check at a time.

Dennis Huston is still awaiting charges from the state attorney generals office, who have taken over the investigation.
So far, he's accused of embezzling $2.8 million from public works over the last decade.