Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

March 29, 2013

Mystic mayor and city attorney answer questions concerning recent state audit

By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — Mystic Mayor Chris Chester and Mystic attorney Deb George Monday afternoon addressed residents'  questions concerning the March 14 state audit of the city of Mystic for the year ending June 30, 2011.

During the 20 minute meeting one or the other denied city officials lied to state officials concerning the recent audit, declined to name the City Council member accused of two electronic bank withdraws totaling nearly $2,000 and insisted the money was paid back.

Chester said the bank statement the city received alerted them of the alleged illegal electronic bank transactions so they contacted the bank and the bank pulled back the payment.

"The transaction occurred, the bank pulled it back," Chester said.

Two electronic transaction payments from the city's general account were made to Alliant Energy: The first was April 12, 2011 and the second was May 13, 2011, Chester said, adding that the city clerk at the time, Patti Cisler, was the first one to realize the fraudulent transactions because at the time the clerk was the first one to open the bank statements.

The mayor now is the first person to open the bank statements, which are then turned over to the city clerk.

The new method to handle bank statements was accepted by the auditor's office.

Both Chester and George declined to name the individual who was a City Council member who allegedly made two unauthorized electronic bank withdrawals from the city's account totaling $1,976 to pay a personal utility account as described in the state audit released March 14.

George said any discussion about who may or may not have done anything is not really appropriate. The audit chose "to not include her name and we as the city are respecting their judgment on that."

George said the city would categorically deny the accusation they lied to the state auditor's office concerning the audit.

"I have no reason to believe that any of the city officials who dealt with the state auditor's office were anything less than truthful," George said. "That's their obligation (to be truthful) and it's the state auditors obligation to be asking the right questions and verifying the information that comes from the city."

Neither Chester nor George could explain how a sitting councilmember was able to make the two transactions.

"But we don't know how the person who made these transfers did that," George said. "What we know is that the city has put into place measures to try to prevent it from happening and the state auditor's office has accepted those controls."

The state audit lists city officials who served during the period of time covered by the audit, July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.

James Robinson, now deceased, was the mayor. Chris Chester was appointed mayor in early 2011 to replace Robinson.

John Hatfield was appointed to the council in November 2011. Nancy Robinson was appointed to the council in November 2011. Walter Buban, council member, January 2012. Valerie Hatfield, council member, January 2012. Patsy Seals, council member, January 2012. Chris Chester, council member, resigned to be named mayor. Paige Seddon, council member, resigned. Heidi Gomez was the city clerk but resigned. Patricia Cisler, city clerk indefinite; Debra George, city attorney indefinite.