PASCO, Wash. -- Former Public Works Accountant Dennis Huston pled guilty to theft, money laundering and possession of cocaine in what is called the biggest and longest embezzlement case in Washington State history. NBC Right Now caught up with the Chair of the Franklin County Commissioners as well as the Auditor into their reaction to the deal
"As auditor, I'm pleased that the Franklin County taxpayers avoided the additional cost of trial, personally I'm disappointed," said Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton who helped discover the embezzlement when he took office last year.
Beaton said he's disappointed Huston left many details out of the plea deal. "as a citizen I would have been interested in his own estimate on yes I started this on X date and I took somewhere around X," he said.
Beaton was also disappointed in the way the courts handled the case. "I'm disappointed the courts, after a man just pled guilty as to what's been described to me as the longest fraud in state history was released on 10,000 bond," he added.
Huston faces up to 25 years in prison. The attorney general's office is recommending a 15 year sentence.
"Personally for the amount of money and for the years, no," said Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller who has faced scrutiny from constituents alongside other commissioners when the scandal broke.
"To me its embarrassing...to me its something I'm not proud of," he said of the case. However, Miller said many lessons have been learned. "We knew these things could happen. We didn't have the equipment. We didn't have the program and we just trusted too many people in the last 20 years., I'm not saying me or the commissioners now, but for the last 20 years it has been that way," said Miller.
Miller said Franklin County was a small town 20 years ago, and they should have been keeping up with the growth. Now he said, the scandal has made them take measures to insure this could never happen again. "We can see where every dollar goes.We didn't have that. The inventory system. The check systems we have now, it will work to stop this..In my lifetime I don't think we'll ever see another fraud in this county," said Miller.
Beaton has also taken many measures to keep a system of checks and balances. "We installed the financial software in June. Parts of it will go live in April, other parts through out 2013. We proposed and the commissioners accepted a reorganization of the accounting function," he added.
Huston will be sentenced in six to eight weeks. Franklin County Commissioners will be meeting next week with the county prosecutor to discuss the civil suit against Huston.