Who hired Dennis Huston?

The Tri Cities raised a collective eyebrow as we discovered a federal judge in Montana had sentenced Dennis Huston for embezzlement three years before Franklin County hired him as public works accounting director.

In 1986, Huston, an accountant for the Bureau of Reclamation, confessed to making up a bogus company and then laundering money to it. Franklin County auditors suspect Huston did something similar at public works and accuse him of stealing more than one million dollars over a period of ten years.

Keeping in mind Huston hasn’t been charged with a single crime (the state attorney general’s office continues to sort through the books), I’m editing as I go here so as not to speculate about what Huston may have possibly, potentially, could have done improperly. Those facts will flush out later. The more practical question right now, the Big Question many people want answered is, “Who hired this guy?”

I’m all for second chances, but it would seem a federal rap for embezzlement would pretty much take someone out of the running for future employment involving the management of public funds.

So who hired Dennis Huston?

Fact: We’re told when Huston was hired Franklin County didn’t have a Human Resources Department; individual department heads did their own hiring. That would narrow it down.

Fact: We’re told at the time of his hiring the county conducted background checks only for selected security-related positions (Arguably, someone handling taxpayers’ money should have been included on that list).

Speculation: Even during an old-fashioned, Twentieth Century job interview, wouldn’t past employment history have come up?

“Mr. Huston, who was your previous employer, and why did you leave?”

The current board of commissioners wasn’t in office when Huston was hired, so commissioners tell us they don’t know who hired Huston—however, I suspect it took only one or two trips to the water cooler for them to get a pretty good idea—and the attorney general’s investigators have snatched up Huston’s personnel file, which most likely will tell us who signed him on. That person, living or now dead we don’t know, may have been told a false story back in 1989 and didn’t think to verify it or thought he/she had. Maybe that person dropped the ball big time. Maybe he/she had been doing someone a favor—we know that can happen in hiring situations. Whether that person violated any law or county procedure is a shoe that has yet to drop.

The Franklin County Commssioners fired Huston this week, a day after Huston left county jail.



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6 responses to “Who hired Dennis Huston?

  1. nwtraveler

    Kevin, I hope you will continue to follow this investigation and report to the community. It appears stalled at this point; I did hear on the radio this morning that “IF Huston is charged….” that worries me a lot. Please keep this in the public eye.

  2. A

    Tim Fife, the Dept Head at the time hired him. He is currently on paid administrative leave.
    I find it crazy that it went on for 10 years and we get a new auditor who finally catches it. Sounds like the previous auditor was just sliding by and not doing her job fully, which yes it’s easy to get comfortable and do the easy thing. But that should not happen when you are elected by the people. Flat out lazy!

  3. A

    Tim Fife was the Dept Head at the time, so he would of hired him. He is on paid administrative leave, currently.
    But what concerns me is they still don’t do background checks on all employees as they get hired!

  4. local citizen

    Things were a lot different in 1989 than they are now. Embezzeling funds wasn’t as hot a topic as it is now and there wasn’t such a big emphasis on internal controls. It wasn’t that unusual to find long-term trusted employees who embezzeled funds from public entities. It is possible he had relatives or connections in the area. Franklin County was a small county. Even now there are many employees at the County who are related to each other. Dennis Huston is actually a very likeable guy – it is easy to understand how he could gain someone’s trust. The whole thing is sad and unfortunate. Things have changed a lot over the last 20 years as far as what’s normal and expected. I don’t think it’s very helpful to go back and try to pin blame on people that were employed over 20 years ago. The truth is that Dennis made a mistake which will cost him and his family for the rest of his life. Franklin County also laid off people a few years ago throughout the County, including the Public Works Dept. A lot of people have been hurt and Dennis is the one who made the mistake.

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