Criminal charges have been filed against Artema Gray, the former city clerk for the city of Silver City accused of improper use of over $61,000 in taxpayer funds.
In a release, the Mills County Sheriff’s Office announced that Gray, 44, had been arrested and charged with ongoing criminal conduct, a Class B felony, first-degree fraudulent practices, first-degree theft and identity theft-fraudulant use of credit cards, all Class C felonies.
“Over the last few months, the Mills County Sheriff’s Office has been working in cooperation with the State of Iowa Auditor’s Office and the Silver City, Iowa, mayor and city council regarding a previous employee’s suspected theft or improper use of more than $61,000,” the sheriff’s office release stated. “After a thorough investigation was completed, criminal charges have been filed against Mrs. Gray and she was taken into custody at the Mills County Sheriff’s Office on May 30.”
The Opinion-Tribune reported last week that Gray had been the subject of a special investigation of the state auditor’s office. The investigation was conducted at the request of Silver City officials.
According to a report released in May by Auditor of the State Rob Sand, the special investigation identified $61,730.26 of improper disbursements, $3,499.51 of unsupported disbursements and $1,555.00 of undeposited fundraising collections. The investigation included an examination of city records, banking documents, IPERS distributions, payroll disbursements, city council meeting minutes and information from Gray’s Paypal and Amazon accounts. Sand said interviews were conducted with city officials and Gray to obtain a better understanding of her job description and an explanation for certain transactions.$924.
The improper disbursements identified include $42,210.26 of personal purchases made with the city’s credit card.
According to the auditor’s report, the investigation uncovered “improper charges” made with the city credit card to a movie theater, a hotel with a water park in Kansas City, ENT Specialists PC, Diagnostic Radiology PC and a lawn care services vendor. The improper charges identified also include purchases of a ceiling fan, an electric razor, bath towels, gift cards, health and beauty items, craft supplies, and a leather bag/purse.
Purchases from fuel vendors were made on the city credit card in several communities, including Glenwood, Malvern, Odebolt, Oakland, Sloan, Sioux City, Stuart, Des Moines, Shawnee, Kan., St. Joseph, Mo., and Bellevue, Neb.
The auditor’s investigation also identified nine payments made to MidAmerican Energy on the credit card, from June 2019 – March 2021. The investigation determined the nine payments totaling $4,821.97 were credited to the personal MidAmerican Energy account assigned to Gray and her spouse, Darren Gray.
The improper disbursements identified also include $10,880.22 of unauthorized payroll issued to Gray and related payroll costs, $2,006.49 of unauthorized reimbursements issued to Gray, over $900 of personal purchases from Quill and $545.00 of payments for Gray’s personal CenturyLink bills.
Sand said the improper disbursements identified include interest late fees, penalties to IPERS, the Department of Revenue, the Internal Revenue Service and credit card payments.
The $3,499.51 of unsupported disbursements identified include $2,672.64 of purchases made with city credit cards and $261.95 of reimbursements issued to Gray.
Sand reported it was not possible to determine the propriety of these credit card charges and disbursements because they were not supported by documentation sufficient to determine if they were for city operations or personal in nature.
Sand also reported $1,555.00 of undeposited fundraising collections were identified by comparing the amount which should have been collected to the amount deposited in the city’s bank account.
The report stated it’s not possible to determine if additional funds were improperly disbursed or if any additional collections were not properly deposited during the period reviewed because adequate records were not available.