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Former Medora auditor under investigation

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A former Medora city auditor allegedly paid herself about $10,000 out of city funds over a few years and officials are waiting to see whether or not the Billings County state's attorney will file charges.

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"We're just frustrated not knowing what's going on," said Mike Oehler, City Council member. "Given the fact that we scraped and scrimped on our last budget to make sure we were in the black -- yeah, a few thousand dollars here and there does make a big difference and it's the principle of it too, of course."

After Sherri Ross left her post in May 2008 the extent of the alleged money funneling was discovered.

"There had been some discrepancies discovered before she left, but the extent of it was not discovered until after she left," said Doug Ellison, Medora mayor. "We found two instances where there were discrepancies in the payroll and in the mean time she resigned and then we had an audit done and they discovered more discrepancies."

Matt Kolling, Medora city attorney, said city records indicate Ross took a little more than $10,000, some of which appeared to be done by issuing herself duplicate paychecks.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigations took over in August 2008 and conducted an interview with Ross.

The information was then forwarded to Billings County State's Attorney Jay Brovold for review, Kolling said.

"I know that he has received the BCI report and what he chooses to do with it from there, I'm not sure," Kolling said, adding he wasn't sure when Brovold received the information, but believes it was in September or October.

Ellison said to his understanding, Ross admitted to the BCI that she took the money.

However, Brovold said he has not received the information.

"I understand that they (BCI) may have done an investigation, but I haven't seen any report from them as of yet," Brovold said. "You could say I'm currently investigating the situation."

Ellison said Brovold has not given the city a time frame as to when he will make his decision whether or not to file charges.

"I assume it's imminent ... but I haven't been told of any time frame," Ellison said, adding the process is taking longer than the city would like.

Kolling said any criminal charges would have to be brought by the state's attorney.

"Ultimately whether a charge gets filed is my decision," Brovold said.

The city has asked Ross to pay back the money, Ellison said.

"She has expressed a willingness to provide a full restitution," Ellison said.

But, some city officials are wondering where the delay is in rectifying the situation.

"I think it's pretty unanimous that the board is frustrated that we haven't got any kind of feedback really to speak of," Oehler said. "Our frustrations are just that we don't have any timelines, what's going on, justification on why he (Brovold) can't prosecute, so that's our biggest hang-up."

Ellison said City Council members have discussed taking further action if the state's attorney does not file charges or if Ross does not make full restitution.

Kolling said the city may have the option of filing civil charges.

A number for Ross could not be located.

Ellison said he heard Ross had married shortly after leaving Medora, but is not sure what her new last name would be.

Calls to present council members Kevin Clyde, John Tzcap and former council member Doug Walker went unreturned Tuesday.

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