Mountain Park still struggling after last year's embezzlement charges

Mountain Park_The City of Mountain Park has been digging its way out of a financial crisis for about a year, and it's still struggling.  The city found itself $100,000 short last March, and it was blamed on the former City Clerk.  The Kiowa County District Attorney's Office accused Kimberly Morris of stealing the money.  Despite the debt being repaid, more financial issues are surfacing.

Mayor Leland Coulter of Mountain Park had a public meeting on Monday night to talk about the issue, and says that it seems when one issue is resolved, another money issue rises to the surface.  He says he is concerned about at least 14 separate problems with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  He says there also is a problem with the lifting station on the town's east side, and it could put them back in a financial hole.

Coulter says he's drowning in a sea of number-filled papers - some belonging to the IRS.  While he doesn't outright blame the former City Clerk for the new batch of problems, he says he does blame the system.  "It's just ripe for - nearly everybody pays by cash - it's  just ripe for some dishonest person to come in and take the money."

No matter who is to blame for the town's financial fix, it is a huge problem.  "The IRS keeps sending us bills and notices," said Coulter.  "I think we just got a bill for something...over $4,000."  He says that's just the beginning - he also is doing his best to straighten out the city's books.  "We don't need a brain surgery in here - as mayor or trustee - what we need is honesty," he said.

Coulter says the last time the town was audited was in 2004, and when he was elected to office last April he tried, but was unable to do so.  "We tried to get an audit for this past year, and there wasn't any records to get an audit from," he said.  In addition to the town's IRS trouble, the city may be forced to move its lift station.  Coulter says there is a dispute as to whether or not it is built on private property, and if the town is forced to move it cost twice as much as the $150,000 station is worth.

Coulter says the good news is that Mountain Park has paid what it owes in water and trash bills, and hopes that the city will continue to keep its head above water.  He says he hopes the financial mess will be resolved when a new mayor is elected in April.  Coulter says he no longer wants the job.

Former City Clerk Kimberly Morris still has not gone to trial on the embezzlement charges, but the Kiowa County District Attorney's Office says she will be in court on Wednesday for her pre-trial hearing.

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