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Kingman might hold off on tax measure due to finance scandal

A finance scandal that has rocked Kingman City Hall has sparked elected officials to contemplate withdrawing the tax proposal they were placing before voters in a special election in May.

They fear allegations that the No. 2 officer in the northwestern Arizona city’s finance department stole more than $300,000 from the city to cover her gambling debt could create an unfavorable climate for asking voters to impose a primary property tax upon themselves. The city does not now assess a primary property tax.

“I have no doubt that this will, if not partially, fully derail the property tax,” said City Council member Mark Abram. “Where is the trust in the city leaders if they allow something like this to happen that they’re not even aware of?”

Mayor Richard Anderson also said he thinks it best that the city shelve its property tax proposal due to shaken public confidence.

“I believe we have to re-create trust,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the city obviously lacked internal safeguards and checks and balances over the Employee Benefit Trust account from which budget analyst Diane Richards is alleged to have transferred funds to pay off credit card bills saturated with Laughlin gambling debt.

Court records unsealed Thursday revealed the thrust of the investigation spearheaded by the Arizona attorney general’s office. A probable cause statement indicated that Richards is suspected of theft, fraud, computer tampering and money laundering.

Anderson said Finance Director Tina Moline and staff are working to implement new protocols to protect the public treasury.

“We are going to fix our deficiencies and add improvements to the system,” the mayor said.

Richards’ employment, after 20 years, was terminated by the city Wednesday. The Kingman Police Department said Richards has been cooperating with investigators.

Mia Garcia, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said she couldn’t comment because the investigation is continuing.

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