FARMINGTON — City officials tried unsuccessfully to recoup money from a former executive director of the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau who they believed benefitted from an embezzlement scheme that went on for six years until it was discovered in 2012.
Debbie Dusenbery allegedly embezzled nearly a half-million dollars from the bureau and spent some of the money on trips and gifts for friends. Becky Walling, the former director, received a $100,000 life insurance policy payment when Dusenbery killed herself shortly after authorities began investigating the bureau's finances, according to city documents.
Some of the policy premiums were paid for with bureau money, which mostly comes from the city's lodgers tax, according to a letter dated April 18 that City Manager Rob Mayes mailed to Walling. In the letter, obtained Wednesday by The Daily Times, he asked that she consider donating the policy's funds to the bureau.
The letter said: "We only ask that you give your consideration to this request and make the donation if you feel it is the right thing to do."
Walling never replied, Mayes said.
Efforts on Thursday to reach Walling for comment were unsuccessful.
Walling is one of several people who police reports identified as benefiting from Dusenbery's spending of the embezzled bureau money.
The others, according to police reports, are Police Sgt. Rick Simmons and his wife; Dusenbery's former boyfriend, Russell Smith; another boyfriend, Ronald Fellabaum; and Simmons' father-in-law.
But city councilors Jason Sandel and Mary Fischer suspect there are more.
Sandel said Robert Perez's investigations answered the first question -- who was embezzling -- and that satisfied the majority of council. But, he said, there are more questions.
Perez was the Farmington Police detective who investigated the embezzlement, but he was fired with less than a year before he was to receive retirement. Fischer said he was too close to naming those who benefited and that's why he was terminated.
"Let's dig at the root of the problem and demand accountability," Sandel said.
The Daily Times has been requesting documents from the city and the bureau under the state's open records law that might shed light on the embezzlement.
But requests seeking information from the bureau identifying those who benefited from the embezzlement have been denied. Documents provided by the city have had key information redacted. Other requests are pending.
The bureau's attorney, Dick Gerding, would not comment for this story.
A document obtained by The Daily Times earlier this year indicates Dusenbery spent money on trips to Hilton Head, S.C.; the Dominican Republic; Belize; the Grand Cayman Islands; Miami; Las Vegas and San Jose, Calif., but what appear to be names of people who might have benefitted are blacked out.