'I have not received evidence of theft': Moorhead prosecutor declines charges in Audubon funds case

In a Feb. 2 letter to a Becker County Sheriff's Office investigator, the Moorhead city prosecutor's office declined to pursue charges.

Audubon sign.jpg
Audubon, Minnesota

DETROIT LAKES — The Moorhead city prosecutor's office has declined to pursue theft charges stemming from a report of alleged missing funds from the city of Audubon.

On Jan. 10 at 12:38 p.m. Shallene Stephenson, the current clerk-treasurer for Audubon, reported $7,235 in allegedly missing funds on behalf of the city and said she believed the previous clerk "wrote herself a check," according to a Becker County emergency dispatch report .

Following multiple interviews by Becker County Sheriff's Office investigators, a final review of the case was forwarded to the Moorhead city prosecutor's office due to a conflict of interest concern from the Audubon city attorney.

In a Feb. 2 letter, Steve Beitelspacher, an assistant prosecutor for the city of Moorhead, wrote, while he was concerned about the perception of self-dealing within Audubon's accounting practices, their office declined to pursue charges in the case based on the information provided.

"I have not received evidence of theft," Beitelspacher wrote. "Audubon requested outside assistance in conducting an audit. If that audit uncovers evidence of crime, or if there is a city policy that prohibited the way the credit card was used, I am open to revisiting this case."


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According to the case reports, much of the investigation centered around the severance allotted to previous Audubon clerk-treasurer Stephanie Poegel, and her remaining vacation, sick, PTO and holiday hours, which needed to be paid out when her employment ended on Dec. 9, 2022. The investigator concluded that Poegel was not paid more than she was allotted, per the city's employee handbook.

Another allegation investigated was Poegel's creation and use of a separate bank account, called: City of Audubon, Audubon Summer Fest, using the city of Audubon's tax ID number to open the account.

In an interview with investigators, Poegel said the Summer Fest bank account is used to fund the town's festival and consisted of funds from donations and fundraisers, and were not city tax dollars. She also said she needed a tax ID number to open the account and the Audubon City Council approved using the city's tax ID number for the account creation.

She added that over the last year, a community club for Summer Fest was formed and they had acquired their own tax ID number. The remaining funds in the city Summer Fest account should have been transferred to the new community club account at the end of the year. Poegel said the funds had not been transferred and she used the city's Summer Fest account to purchase a 256GB USB flash drive at Walmart in Detroit Lakes for the community club's data since she is still an active council member with the Summer Fest community club.

Stephenson, Audubon's current city clerk-treasurer, said the city is currently undergoing an audit conducted by an outside organization to ensure all city funds are accounted for, but they also followed state statute by reporting the alleged incident to law enforcement when it was discovered.

Poegel declined to comment.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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