Two more searches in county fair fund investigation

By Sharna Johnson, CNJ staff writer

The offices of the Curry County attorney and treasurer were searched Thursday by state police in connection with unaccounted for Curry County Fair funds, according to two search warrants filed in Curry County Magistrate Court.

The warrant for County Treasurer Rhonda Bookout’s office specified officers were looking for “all supporting documentation for 2007 Curry County Fair gate sales receipts.”

The search warrant served at the county attorney’s office detailed 17 specific documents pertaining to the 2007 county fair, including letters to and from a motocross promoter, accounting documents and receipts from the motocross event at the 2007 fair and correspondence from Bookout.

County officials have said between $7,200 and $11,200 of 2007 Curry County fair revenue is unaccounted for. In November, New Mexico State Police and the district attorney’s office began investigating the missing funds.

County Attorney Stephen Doerr said he requested law enforcement obtain a search warrant before handing over documents in his possession. He cited attorney-client privilege as his reason for requiring a search warrant.

“I wasn’t trying to withhold anything. It’s easier if they serve a warrant and I respond to it,” he said. Doerr said he complied fully with the warrant.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. They’re trying to look at all the issues, which I think is good,” he said.

According to the five-page search warrant for Bookout’s office, state police found ledger entries that showed a deposit in December for the revenue from a motocross event at the fair, but no actual deposits were made at the bank.

Bookout was also responsible for depositing the motocross revenue in August, and never did, according to the warrant.
It is the second time state police have searched the treasurer’s office.

In January, law enforcement seized county documents from the treasurer’s office, a computer, Bookout’s personal financial information and Bookout’s personnel file.

Attempts to contact Bookout at her home and office were unsuccessful on Monday. Bookout told the CNJ previously she had followed proper procedure in the handling of fair funds.

State Auditor Hector Balderas said he anticipates his investigation will be concluded by March, according to a press release issued Monday, at which time a special audit report will be released.

“As your state auditor, I will hold our government and elected officials to the highest standards of fiscal management,” Balderas said in the release. “As stewards of the taxpayers money and trust, we have a special responsibility to guarantee that fraud, waste and abuse is not tolerated.

“The Curry County Fair Motor Cross Fund provides additional revenue for the citizens of the county and every effort must be made to ensure fiscal accountability.”

District Attorney Matt Chandler has said he plans to present evidence and statements in the case to an investigative grand jury to determine what if any wrongdoing has occurred.