PONCA, Neb. (KCAU) — A longtime city employee was accused of using city funds for personal use and then deleting important city files upon termination.
According to the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts (APA), the organization had received a number of concerns regarding the City of Ponca’s former Clerk, Treasurer, and administrator, Denise Peterson.
The report from the APA states that after working for the city for over 20 years, Peterson was terminated on February 1. When she cleared out her office, she allegedly erased contents from her work laptop that held between 19 and 20 gigabytes of City-related data. This data included public records, financial information, and other important documentation.
The city then began working with the Dixon County Sheriff’s Office and Computer Forensic Resources, Inc. (CFR) to recover the data. The report states that “579,000 artifacts had been accessed, changed, or otherwise altered as a result of general usage and noted attempts to restore/recover data on February 2, 2023.” CFR was unable to determine how much of that activity could be directly attributed to Peterson.
The report noted that by erasing City records from the computer, Peterson could have violated several state laws.
Read the full report below:
Additionally, the report notes possible misuse of city credit cards according to the city bank account and credit card statements. It noted there were 58 questionable payments worth $2,647.89 on the credit cards. Forty-one of the transactions worth $2,255.87 were made at Walmart. THE APA questions whether some of the items “were an appropriate us of public funds.”
The APA also found 10 clothing purchases worth $1,105.75. The city policy only allows for a $20 allowance a month for clothing.
Another 144 transactions were made with the city credit cards that lacked “adequate supporting documentation,” the report states. The lack of support is due in part to the erasure of city records. The APA noted that the city created formal credit card policies to ensure cards are used only for authorized purposes.
The report also noted there was also evidence that Peterson was paid twice for the same pay period in February 2022 as well as a suspicious vacation payout in February 2021.