FARMINGTON — A form letter written for the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau and sent to people believed to have benefited from a nearly half-million dollar embezzlement scandal assured the recipients that their names would not be made public.
The letter then makes a plea for the recipient to return money.
"The members of FCVB's Board ask only that you give consideration to this request and that you make a donation to FCVB if you feel that it is the right thing to do," the letters state.
So far, the campaign has netted $1,300 from a single donor.
Between 2006 and 2012, the bureau's then-director, Debbie Dusenbery, allegedly embezzled $480,727 of taxpayer money from the bureau. In February, 2012, after spending the money on her and friends' vacations to South Carolina, the Dominican Republic, Belize, the Grand Cayman Islands, Miami, Las Vegas and California, Dusenbery committed suicide.
The bureau mailed the letters in early August as an effort to recover the money from those who may have unknowingly benefited.
The Daily Times received copies of the letters from the bureau Wednesday in response to a records request. The response contained four two-page letters, all dated Aug. 14 that are identical except for what appear to be the recipient's names and addresses, which are blacked out.
The letters state that any contributions will be made to a trust account created by the legal firm that represents the bureau. "Our firm will then anonymously forward all such contributions to FCVB," the letters state.
The bureau has denied other requests under the state's open record laws that sought details on the embezzlement, including information identifying those who might have benefited. Documents provided by the city and bureau have had key information, including what appear to be names, redacted. Other requests are pending.
In a statement accompanying the letters, the bureau's attorney, Dick Gerding, restated his justification for redacting the names.
He said the bureau is a private nonprofit corporation and protected from the state's open record laws. Even if the laws applied, he said, the bureau must "comply with the statue which states that names of individuals must be protected in certain circumstances."
He wrote: "... the corporation must redact or protect from disclosure the names of 'individuals accused but not charged with a crime.'"
Gerding would not comment for this story, so it is unknown if the bureau only sent letters to four individuals. It is also unknown if those individuals were any of the six identified in police documents as having benefited.
When asked whether the individuals should identify themselves now that they likely know the gifts were purchased with stolen money, Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts said they may have a moral obligation to do so, but he will not pass judgment.
"I think they were victims of Miss Dusenbery's embezzlement," he said.
Gerding has said the bureau has no plans for further action on the matter. Roberts said the bureau made an "appropriate effort."
"If it were me," Roberts said, "I would return the money."Dan Schwartz cover government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.
Debbie Dusenbery allegedly embezzled $480,727.40 in taxpayer money from the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau between the time she was hired as director in 2006 until she quit in 2012, according an audit dated May 15, 2012.
Dusenbery made fraudulent transactions on four accounts, according to the audit. The following is the audit s summary of those transactions for the six years of her employment with the bureau:
$42,939.86 in a Wells Fargo checking account
$112.55 on an American Express credit card
$8,472.42 on a Wells Fargo business card
$71,254.41 in the Wells Fargo checking account
$156.76 on the American Express credit card
$508.80 on the Wells Fargo business card
$82,523.26 in the Wells Fargo checking account
$2,823.01 on the American Express credit card
$152.23 on the Wells Fargo business card
$44,999.31 in the Wells Fargo checking account
$6,185.70 on the American Express credit card
$1,462.90 on the Wells Fargo business card
$74,888.86 in the Wells Fargo checking account
$7,094.30 on the American Express credit card
$72.39 on the Wells Fargo business card
$2,500 from the Totah Festival
2011 and 2012
$98,195.54 in the Wells Fargo checking account
$33,388.28 on the American Express credit card
$2,996.82 on the Wells Fargo business card