WYOMING — State Police on Wednesday served a search warrant at the home and accounting office of Tamra Smith as part of an investigation into her alleged financial misconduct while treasurer for the Wyoming Free Library and the Wyoming Hose Co. 1.
Smith, whose job as manager of Wyoming Borough is now in jeopardy, referred questions to her attorney Joseph Sklarosky Sr.
Smith added, “It does not have anything to do with my accounting business.” The search was conducted at Smith Accounting Services LLC at 251 Wyoming Ave. Sklarosky could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Wyoming’s mayor, Joseph Dominick, is demanding that the borough council place Smith on unpaid leave and hire an independent auditor to review borough finances.
“As elected officials, it is our duty to safeguard the assets of the borough for its citizens; therefore, borough manager Tamra Smith should not have access to borough funds until the investigation is completed,” Dominick said in a statement late Wednesday.
Authorities on scene declined to comment on the search. But the warrant’s affidavit of probable cause obtained by WNEP-TV and provided to the Times Leader said the investigation began in December 2016 and covered the period between 2010 and 2015 when Smith did the bookkeeping, payroll and taxes for the library, the fire company and Wyoming Ambulance. Investigators are looking into alleged fraudulent tax forms and forged signatures on the fire company’s tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2013.
The library lost its tax-exempt status in 2013 and the fire company was forced to close in 2015 due to Smith’s failure to file documents and pay taxes, according to the affidavit. The library continues to operate, and the hose company has since returned to service.
Apart from the ongoing investigation, Smith has been accused by a former borough police officer in a pending whistleblower suit filed in 2015 of misconduct for allegedly fixing a bid for an equipment sale involving the State Police and FBI.
The search warrant affidavit detailed fire officials’ attempts to obtain documents from Smith. She allegedly destroyed them as well as financial records from the library to “hide evidence of her malfeasance and hinder any investigation into her criminal activity,” court papers say.
For that reason, authorities requested a search warrant that was approved Wednesday by District Judge Diana Malast in Pittston. The warrant allowed authorities to seize records, documents and computers from Smith’s accounting office.
According to the affidavit:
As recently as May 30, 2017, Smith contacted former fire company president Joseph Kopcza and asked him to help her by writing a letter stating he gave her permission to sign his name on documents. That same day, Kopcza contacted State Police. Meanwhile, Smith’s attorney, Sklarosky, contacted lead investigator Trooper Michael Mulvey, asking if she was the target of an investigation.
Kopcza told Mulvey that Smith did payroll for the fire company, and she had a stamper with his signature on it that was to be used for payroll only.
Mulvey attempted to collect financial records from fire officials Kirk Carey, treasurer, and Jerome Walsh, president, in July. They informed him they did not know where all the records were kept. The records were supposed to be at the borough building. Carey and Walsh were able to locate some monthly bank statements, but Smith reportedly put the complete records during her time as treasurer on a removable computer data storage device, or thumb drive. Former treasurer William Hizny said the thumb drive should be in a filing cabinet at the borough building with the rest of the fire company’s information. However, he cautioned that the drive never worked and Smith always gave him a “run-around” with the fire company’s finances.
Last week, when Mulvey inquired about the whereabouts of the fire company’s records during Smith’s time as treasurer, Walsh said he would again look for them at the borough building. Walsh told Mulvey the records were not there and he could not locate the thumb drive.
Smith had no reason to transfer the records into digital copies and she was not authorized to destroy the paper records if they were digitized, fire officials said.
Trooper Mulvey said the search will provide evidence that Smith “has or attempted to destroy or conceal her financial misconduct” and establish that she “was engaged in the criminal activities of (at least)” theft by unlawful taking, forgery, tampering with records or identification, access device fraud and theft by deception.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.