Boise County commissioner resigns weeks after calling for forensic audit of county finances

Boise County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Vicki Wilkins abruptly resigned during a meeting in May, but is saying very little publicly about why.

“I can’t tell you anything ... on advice of legal counsel,” she told the Statesman. “I stand behind my original statement.”

Wilkins was referring to what she said at the May 12 commissioners meeting.

“It has always been my intent to serve the residents of Boise County ethically, honestly and with integrity,” she said, according to the meeting minutes. “However, those qualities have come into question recently. These distractions do not serve the best interest of Boise County. Therefore, it is with deepest regret and a heavy heart that I step down as Boise County commissioner, effective immediately.”

Wilkins’ attorney, Tara Martens-Miller, of the Spink Butler law firm in Boise, did not return calls seeking comment.

The three-member Boise County commission oversees a budget of about $9.25 million.

Alan Ward, now chairman of the commission, said he was surprised by Wilkins’ departure but declined to discuss what precipitated it. Commissioner Roger Jackson could not be reached for comment.

The Boise County Republican Central Committee submitted three possible replacements to the governor’s office: Bob Fry, Laura Baker and Jim Fisher, according to Mark Warbis, a governor’s spokesman. Central Committee chairman John Blattler said Fisher subsequently withdrew from consideration.

On Wednesday afternoon, Otter announced his selection for the vacant Boise County commissioner seat.

Wilkins took office in 2013 after unseating Fry, the District 3 incumbent. She was part of what was hailed as possibly the first-ever all-female county board in Idaho, but it didn’t last long. District 2 Commissioner Jamie Anderson lost to Alan Ward in last year’s Republican primary, and District 1 Commissioner Barbara Balding chose not to run again. Jackson won that seat.

At a commissioners meeting April 20, Wilkins spoke publicly about a criminal investigation into allegations of missing funds from the clerk’s office, according to a transcript of the meeting published in the Idaho World newspaper. Wilkins said it affected office morale.

“I want to know exactly what is missing and from what funds, as well as what do we have and where,” Wilkins said. “I respectfully request the board have a forensic audit of county funds done ASAP so that we can be better aware of our financial issues and status, or lack thereof.”

It’s unclear what, if anything, the concerns Wilkins voiced had to do with her departure. But it appears to have angered at least one county employee.

Boise County Clerk Mary Prisco called Wilkins’ comments “completely inappropriate and a poor representation of our county” in a statement to the May 6 Idaho World. Prisco said the estimated amount of missing funds had been disclosed in the county’s audited financial statements for the period that ended Sept. 30, 2014.

The notes of that financial statement, available to the public online, say that the county had an estimated theft loss in the amount of $29,782 in fiscal 2013 and an estimated theft loss of $10,608 in fiscal 2014.

Auditors found significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting and errors in tracking capital assets. A lack of proper control over custody and recording of cash collections led to the theft of $40,390, the financial statement says.

To remedy that, commissioners implemented a new financial reporting policy that addresses cash-collection procedures.

Ward said Monday that the board has not commissioned another audit because it’s waiting for the outcome of the criminal investigation into missing funds.

Due to concerns about potential conflicts of interest, the county’s Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor’s Office asked outside agencies to handle the investigation. Idaho State Police investigated and forwarded its report to the state attorney general. Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for the AG’s office, said no decision has been made.

“We review all the materials and decide if it’s worth charging crimes,” Dvorak said.

The AG’s office has three attorneys in the special prosecutions unit, he said. They have been involved in complex cases in Jefferson and Oneida counties.

Boise County Prosecutor Jolene Maloney said Tuesday that ISP’s investigation lasted approximately nine months, including a financial audit.

“We are grateful the Attorney General’s Office agreed to take the case,” Maloney said in a statement. “Given their expertise in public corruption matters, we believe the public’s interests will be well represented in the prosecution of this matter.”

Boise County prosecutors said they wouldn’t comment further, in an effort to make sure they don’t jeopardize the case. They have advised commissioners to refrain from commenting.