April 07, 2020

Unexpected audit, fees hit Fort Kent in 1997> Administration under budget despite expenses

FORT KENT — The town of Fort Kent incurred unexpected legal and accounting fees in 1997 in connection with an investigation into more than $500,000 in missing excise tax collections over a period of about six years, it was learned Monday night.

Town manager Don Guimond reported to the Town Council that legal fees “involving our excise tax situation” amounted to $7,457. He said the town did not have any money budgeted for the situation.

It also cost the town another $14,800 for a special audit of municipal books for the investigation.

The expenses were incurred in connection with the apparent suicide of Fort Kent town office manager Marilyn Deschaine, who in May threw herself off a bridge over the Fish River after the excise tax money was discovered missing. The town has filed a claim against her estate.

Despite the two unbudgeted expenditures, Guimond said the town office’s administration account still operated in the black for the year.

The town council also was told that excise tax collections in 1997 were $580,434, about $100,000 more than excise tax collections in 1996.

Guimond made short shrift of discussion on the increased excise tax collections. “No further comment is needed on that,” he said.

The town has made a creditor’s claim against Deschaine’s estate “by virtue of substantial sums converted from the Town of Fort Kent by the decedent and [believes its claim will] probably exceed the value of the estate.”

Deschaine, 49, drowned on May 10, 1997, after jumping from the Fish River Bridge at Fort Kent Mills. Seven days later, her body was recovered 1,500 feet downriver from the bridge.

The town’s claim is that Deschaine was involved in the disappearance of $509,007 from excise tax collections from the town office between Jan. 1, 1990 and May 10, 1997.

Two days before Deschaine’s death, employees at the Fort Kent town office were told of a discrepancy discovered in the municipal books. An audit confirmed the auditors’ preliminary finding.

The town was insured for $50,000 for such losses. The town is seeking the remainder of the loss from Deschaine’s estate, worth an estimated $185,000.

The accountant working for the town discovered the missing funds by matching state motor vehicle registrations for the period against deposits made in excise tax collections for the same period.

Deschaine’s estate has been in Aroostook County Probate Court since last June. Final determination will not be made until later this year at the earliest, officials involved with the case have said.

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