Governor suspends Crook County treasurer
SUNDANCE — Governor Mark Gordon has suspended Mary Kuhl from her position as Crook County Treasurer in an order filed with the county on Thursday.
Meanwhile, an amended version of the verified petition for her removal has been filed by the Attorney General’s Office.
The amendment adds new information regarding an alleged theft from the vault as well as findings of theft and falsified documents from an FBI investigation into Kuhl’s conduct.
The governor states in his order for temporary suspension that he was asked by the Crook County Commission to direct the Attorney General to commence and prosecute an action to remove Kuhl from her position, due to allegations that she committed misconduct or malfeasance in office.
Gordon summoned Kuhl for a meeting at the Wyoming State Capitol last week and heard the charges against her as well the defense against those charges presented by counsel Jason Tangeman.
The governor states that, based on his determination that Kuhl has committed malfeasance or misconduct, state statutes provide him with, “The authority to temporarily suspend Ms. Kuhl from the further exercise of her duties as Crook County Treasurer until the termination of the ongoing removal proceedings.”
In his order, Gordon recognizes that the limitations of his authority as the governor of Wyoming make him unable to render any judicial determination of criminal guilt. He did not, he said, apply the rules of civil procedure, criminal procedure or evidence in the meeting.
However, taking into account all the information available, including presentations made by the Attorney General’s Office, Kuhl and her counsel, he wrote: “I have determined that there were sufficient irregularities and deficiencies in the manner in which Ms. Kuhl carried out her duties as Crook County Treasurer to rise to the level of misconduct and malfeasance.”
The Attorney General’s Office filed a motion last week to amend the verified petition for removal of Kuhl as a county officer. This petition is the basis of the civil case against Kuhl, which was triggered by the county commissioners in response to the criminal charges against her. (In the criminal case, Kuhl is facing four charges: a felony count of unauthorized use of monies and three misdemeanors, including one count of official misconduct and two of issuing false certificate.)
The amended petition brings new accusations against Kuhl based on additional information obtained by the state.
The first new accusation expands upon an allegation that first appeared in the civil case and does not appear within the criminal charges.
The state originally alleged that Kuhl stole $2900 in cash from the office vault over the course of several instances during which she was alone in the vault. New information now suggests that Kuhl attempted to surreptitiously return that money to the vault. According to the motion, employees of the office had removed all remaining cash from the vault by August 12 and verified that no other cash funds remained.
On or about that same day, Kuhl was permitted to return to the office following her preliminary hearing in the criminal matter. On September 9, an office employee went through a folder in the vault for an unrelated matter.
“In that folder, she discovered $2900 in cash that had not been in the vault before Defendant Kuhl returned to the office,” states the motion.
According to the amendment, a special agent from the FBI was assigned to investigate Kuhl in April, 2019 regarding “substantially similar allegations” to the ones that initially caused the county and state to seek her removal from office. In the amendment, the state has added two findings from this investigation.
The first involves the alleged falsification of a bill of sale to cover up an incident in which Kuhl manipulated a citizen’s transaction in order to take $360. The issue dates from August 4, 2016, when a citizen paid for the sales tax and registration for her vehicle and Kuhl conducted the transaction. The total paid was $1381.14, of which the citizen paid $514 in cash.
“Immediately after entering the correct information into the Crook County Treasurer’s Office system, Defendant Kuhl voided the transaction,” alleges the amendment. She is then alleged to have reentered the transaction, but increased the trade-in amount for the citizen’s prior vehicle by $6000 in order to reduce the sales tax by $360.
Kuhl allegedly never provided a receipt or refund for this $360 to the citizen.
“This $360 was stolen by Defendant Kuhl,” states the amendment.
Once Kuhl was under investigation by the FBI, she allegedly claimed to the special agent that, in June, 2019, she sent a letter to the citizen claiming she had underpaid her sales tax by $360 and demanded it be paid, along with $162 in related fees. Kuhl then allegedly claimed that the citizen paid the $522 with a money order sent via USPS to her office.
However, the citizen allegedly never received any communication from Kuhl and never purchased or sent a money order to her office.
“Defendant Kuhl claimed that [the citizen] underpaid in 2016 because [she] provided a false bill of sale. However, the original bill of sale on file with the Crook County Clerk’s Office and the one [the citizen] had was the original, correct bill of sale,” states the amendment. “Defendant Kuhl provided a falsified bill of sale to [the special agent] and made multiple material misstatements to [him] during his interview with Defendant Kuhl in 2019 and 2020 to cover up the theft of the $360 in 2016.”
On June 18, 2015, another citizen registered her vehicle, paid $194.40 and was provided a receipt. This transaction was handled by Kuhl, according to the motion.
About 45 minutes later, Kuhl allegedly “voided the transaction entirely and stole the $194.40.”
She claimed to the special agent that she found this money in an envelope in the vault in February, 2019 and reentered the transaction, providing a new receipt to the citizen.
However, the citizen allegedly never received a new receipt or refund in 2019 or at any other point from the Crook County Treasurer’s Office.
“Defendant Kuhl made multiple material misstatements and provided falsified documents to [the special agent] regarding the transaction…to cover up her theft of the $194.40 in 2015,” states the motion.
Kuhl’s civil trial is expected to begin on October 12.