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FJBC ready to make insurance claim for missing funds

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The Flathead Joint Board of Control’s forensic audit revealed that $221,000 was taken from the irrigation agency without board approval.  

During the regular board meeting on Tuesday, FJBC attorney Bruce Fredrickson announced that the audit was finished. He said accountant Jane Schweitzer with Anderson ZurMuehlen completed a 567-page document containing a line-by-line review of the board’s accounting transactions. 

The board hired the accounting firm to look into transactions for the past three years from 2014 to 2016 when executive manager Johanna Clark was in charge of FJBC accounting. Clark’s position was terminated on May 24. The board has not identified Clark as the person responsible for the missing funds.   

The information in the audit is not yet open to the public in an effort to protect an investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Fredrickson said the board is turning the audit over to the FBI. “They wanted to meet as soon as the audit was done,” he said. 

Fredrickson said the accountant identified $221,000 of funds that the board did not approve, and that he was not able to go into detail about where those funds were spent while the issue was under investigation. He did say that the audit was done using source documents and interviews. “The report is solid,” he said.

Fredrickson added that there were some things that the audit could not quantify but they were minor. He said the document was very well done. “The work product is outstanding,” he said.

The board is also turning the audit over to their insurance company so they can make a claim to try and recoup the lost funds. FJBC Chairman Ray Swenson said the insurance company might dispute such a large claim.  

Flathead Indian Irrigation Project Manager Pete Plant was at the meeting. He said the irrigation season was finished so his crew was working on routine and winter maintenance. He said a crew of 20 people stays on through the winter to take care of those issues. 

Hydrologist Kurt Hafferman reported to the board that he was about halfway done with his project. He was hired by the board to work on water rights adjudication issues before the matter is taken to water court.

Board member Janette Rosman noted that the election for irrigators to vote for board members is in May. She said voters need to make sure they designate one person to vote for property with multiple owners and that getting it done before the election could be helpful. 

FJBC meetings are held at 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in the St. Ignatius office. 

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