FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington recently released unredacted documents requested by The Daily Times about a year ago related to the embezzlement of almost a half million dollars, but they shed little additional light on who benefited from the stolen money.
From 2006 to 2012 the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau's then-director, Debbie Dusenbery, embezzled $480,727 of taxpayer money from the bureau, according to police. In February 2012, after questions arose about expenditures for vacations to South Carolina, the Dominican Republic, Belize, the Grand Cayman Islands, Miami, Las Vegas and California for her and her friends, Dusenbery killed herself.
Officials still can't provide details on how most of about $407,000 was spent.
The two pages of unredacted documents released list 13 names of Dusenbery's friends, three bank and two credit card accounts, six vacation destinations and what appear to be the beneficiaries, and the first names of then-bureau employees who received bonuses.
Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts said it is possible Dusenbery spent that money on herself over the six-year period. And he said he could not justify spending more money on an investigation that was producing diminishing results.
"There's still so much that's unknown," said Matt Dodson, who also is running for mayor.
Dodson said releasing the documents was a political move. He has accused the mayor of withholding the names of those who benefited from the scandal. He said that is why Roberts released the unredacted documents at this point in time.
"It gets flat into corruption," he said. "And I don't like unanswered questions."
Dodson's allegations prompted Roberts and City Manager Rob Mayes to meet with The Daily Times to identify what documents were redacted, Roberts said, because he wasn't certain which document Dodson was referencing. Roberts said information in the two-page document shouldn't have been redacted. The city attorney's office on Feb. 7 emailed The Daily Times the unaltered documents.
One page of the document lists the names of Tonya Stinson and Ingrid Gilbert, two current bureau employees, and Ellen Brown, a former employee. According to the document, in December 2011, Stinson, the bureau's current executive director, got a $450 bonus, Gilbert got a $350 bonus and Brown got a $150 bonus, allegedly from the stolen money.
Stinson said they had never received bonuses, but believed she was being rewarded for good work.
When she discovered Dusenbery had been embezzling bureau money, she said she approached its board of directors and asked what should be done with the bonuses. The board agreed in a motion that the staff wasn't responsible for the embezzlement and they didn't need to return the money, she said.
Roberts said he believes Stinson authored the documents with details of the bonuses.
Others who are known to have benefited from the embezzlement, according to a police report by Robert Perez, a police detective who investigated the case, are Police Sgt. Rick Simmons and his wife; Russell Smith, Dusenbery's former boyfriend; Ronald Fellabaum, another boyfriend; Simmons' father-in-law; Tucker and Karen Bayless, Roberts' in-laws; and former bureau executive director, Becky Walling.
Dusenbery paid for a room at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C. for Tucker and Karen Bayless. The couple repaid the bureau for the rooms.
Dodson said the documents that still need to be released are those that the bureau maintains.
The city has encouraged the bureau to release all documents "pertinent" to the embezzlement, Roberts said. But, he said, "that's not our decision to make," adding that he's unsure what documents Dodson is referencing.
"Somebody has to be held accountable and that's more than one person," Dodson said, "so I still have problems with it."
And he said Perez's firing during the investigation is suspicious.
But Roberts said the city should not spend any more tax dollars attempting to track the embezzled money. Already, it spent $60,000 on an independent audit of the embezzled accounts and authorized an "unfettered" police investigation, he said. Dusenbery is likely the primary beneficiary of the embezzled funds, Roberts said.
"The only criminal is Debbie Dusenbery. She's dead," he said.