Brooks addresses embezzlement case during forum

ALAMOSA — Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks addressed a question about the embezzlement case against former finance director Amanda McDonald during this week’s candidate forum.

When asked why it took so long to detect and stop the illegal actions of the city’s former finance director, Brooks said the alleged actions were so sophisticated that they were difficult to detect even by the city’s auditors.

“Some of the techniques that were used were very good and sophisticated where the auditors and even additional services were not able to find them,” Brooks explained.

Brooks also stressed that while the case was still proceeding through the court system, “everything I say is allegedly because nobody’s been found guilty.”

McDonald, 41, will be accepting a plea agreement that includes a deferred judgment on a felony unauthorized use of transaction device charge and a straight plea to a misdemeanor theft charge, her attorney Public Defender James Valenti told Alamosa County Judge Daniel Walzl this summer.

In a subsequent court appearance, Valenti said the parties are working out the restitution amount. McDonald was accused of misappropriating $65,000 in public funds and providing city health insurance to an unauthorized family member, which resulted in the city being charged approximately $400,000 in unauthorized premiums and insurance benefits.  

McDonald’s case is scheduled again in court on December 5.

Brooks said during Monday night’s candidate forum that the alleged thefts occurred in very small amounts and through means that were difficult to identify. After receiving an audit report that did not necessarily point to theft but raised some issues to investigate further, the city paid Wall, Smith & Bateman to go through the city’s finances “with a fine tooth comb,” Brooks explained.

“They were not able to find anything,” she said. “The break came when another party provided information that was able to point us in the right direction.”

Further investigation led to charges of felony theft, felony embezzlement of public property, misdemeanor first-degree official misconduct and felony unauthorized use of transaction device charge.

Brooks said the city council and staff took this situation very seriously because it was not only a situation of alleged theft but also of public trust and public funds.

“It’s something we wanted to be transparent and handle head on,” she said.