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Detox official bristles at city criticism
At a Riverton City Council meeting, Julie Freese gave a forceful rebuttal to criticism of financial practices at the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center that had been raised by council members. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Detox official bristles at city criticism

Jul 24, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

Julie Freese, who also is the elected Fremont County Clerk, labeled some comments made by Riverton city council members as ludicrous and disrespectful.

The board secretary for the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center said recent comments directed toward the center by Riverton City Council members bordered on slander and could result in litigation.

"Unless you have been to our board meetings or stopped by either of the centers, or at the very least asked questions of our director or board, your recent comments are disrespectful," Julie Freese said during the council's meeting July 17.

At the council meeting June 19, the city council voted to award an advance of $22,000 for the current fiscal year to help the center meet payroll with the condition the $22,000 would be deducted from the 2013 fiscal year. The decision was made after some council members questioned management of the center and where the money was being spent.

During the June 19 meeting, councilman Richard Gard compared the constant need for payroll money to an addiction and said if there was no money to pay employees then the top of management should go without pay.

During the same meeting, councilman Eric Heiser said he had never seen the center's financial books and thought that as stewards of the taxpayer's money, the council needed to know what was going on.

Freese, who also is the elected Fremont County Clerk, said she wanted to clear up a few issues publicly during the crowded meeting July 17.

She said the alcohol crisis center board is comprised of members from the community as well as several councilmen and women.

"The Riverton chief of police has also been an ex-officio member of the board," Freese said. "Our board is very conservative on how funds are spent, and the monthly bills are always discussed at length at every meeting."

Freese said the board had implemented during one of the first years of operation a budget process which was thoroughly discussed for several meetings and adopted annually while being strictly adhered to.

"An audit has been completed on an annual basis for many years by a CPA firm, and the board has made various changes as suggested," Freese said. "These audits are public record, as they are filed annually with the Fremont County Clerk's office as well as the State of Wyoming Audit Division."

Freese said it was ludicrous that a specific quantity in the amount of $500,000 was referred to as unaccounted for.

"Our board comprised of Ron Blumenshine, Bill Runner, John Snell, Julie Freese, Helen Warpness, Carlton Underwood and councilwoman Diana Mahoney (at that time as a voting member), along with the center's accountants should be able to attest to the fact these funds were earmarked, discussed and approved at several meetings from 2008 onward, for the purchase and renovation of the Mountain View Transitions," she said.

Freese said the council and the county commissioners receive a monthly packet from director Lisa Amos with reports of the center's activities.

"We take the alcoholic addiction of our community very seriously and voluntarily work at finding ways to solve those issues," Freese said. "It is not an easy task and will not be fixed overnight or even in a few years. It will be an ongoing task for this community, and the first aspect of that recovery will be the communications between our board and our stakeholders."

Freese said the next board meeting is at noon Monday, Aug. 13, at City Hall.

"We would expect to see any and all of this council at that meeting to begin that communication effort," Freese said.

"Should this time of day not be conducive for most of your schedules, we would be interested in another time to make that happen."

Freese said the center wanted to be transparent with the taxpayers of the county.

Mayor Ron Warpness thanked Freese for her presentation. He said the center does a lot for the community and hoped strides would be made to lay the issues to rest.

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Riverton City Council