In a report released Monday by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, former Valley City Police Chief Dean Ross was cleared of accusations that he mismanaged several police department funds.
While the report did find that Ross's financial activities were "unusual, and likely not compliant with generally accepted accounting practices," it found nothing indicating his actions were criminal in nature.
"I am very pleased and gratified that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation report verifies what we've been saying all along and at the all the press conferences," said Ross of the findings.
The investigation, which was requested by the Barnes County State's Attorney's office on June 1, examined suspected misappropriations relating to three police department accounts, retention of fees paid by the public, the deposit of donations to the department, and the sale of pickups and video equipment.
The report by BCI Special Agent Scott Kraft stated that bank statements showed that "no money was unaccounted for from any of the accounts". Kraft discovered "some acts that appeared abnormal, but nothing criminal".
City Commissioner Jon Wagar, who, along with Mayor Bob Werkhoven and former City Administrator Jon Cameron, supported the BCI investigation, said Monday,"They found no criminal wrongdoing, but there were irregularities. They didn't say that he hadn't done anything wrong - it just wasn't criminal.
"I would stand by (the city's) internal investigation and the findings that we made," Wagar said. "We thought there was enough there to charge (Ross), and we'll stand by that. The city found that he did violate city policy and ordinances - there were 18 violations that were settled with his retirement."
City Attorney Russ Myhre said Monday that the report "was an appropriate disposition of the case", but that "no city department head should ever have access to (a large amount) of cash that is run outside of the city's regular budgeting process, without any accountability whatsoever to the city or its citizens."
Under the North Dakota Century Code, misapplication of entrusted property occurs when a person "disposes of, uses, or transfers any interest in property...in a manner that the person knows is not authorized". The report concluded that none of Ross's financial activities constituted misapplication of entrusted property. Suspicions that did not implicate state law; such as alleged violations of city policies, federal grant or equipment programs, and federal tax laws, were not reviewed in the investigation.
"This case was never about whether the former police chief had acted criminally by having this huge slush fund," said Myhre. "This is a gray area of the law. However, just because a course of action does not violate criminal law does not mean that it is not civilly, morally, or ethically wrong."
Both Ross and the City say they are willing to accept the report's findings and attempt to move forward.
"There's probably going to be some more re-hashing," said Commissioner Wagar, "but it is over from our perspective - we've got a lot of other things on our plate with our budget, and the flood considerations. It's in the best interest for everyone that this matter is done and gone."
Ross wanted to thank the citizens of Valley City and surrounding areas for supporting him throughout the events of the past year.
"As far as I'm concerned this matter is behind us, so let's look to the future."