One year later: Dennis Huston

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- KEPR has tracked this story since the was a year ago when Dennis Huston was arrested as head of finance at public works for allegedly embezzling 1.7 million dollars from tax payers.

It looks the same here at Franklin County compared to a year ago.
But on the inside.

Commissioner Rick Miller explains, "It's changed a lot. Everyone's eyes are open on this."

Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller says he pushed for changes within the county nearly immediately. They include open access to every department's financial documents. These can no be viewed by all department heads.. County wide. Treasurer's meetings are now open to the public. These were once held private and quarterly. They're now happening monthly with that added transparency.

Miller continues, "Some don't like it, some do. But it's the right thing to do, is to get the communication together so everyone has an eye on what's going on. I think that's what we lost in the last 20 years."

The Franklin County Auditor also upgraded its equipment. New software makes this 1983 auditing system look ancient. The office also reorganized staff to name a director of internal finance as well as a director of auditing services. These tools will only be successful if the culture will change.

"It's the buy-in and implementation of the organization that will realize these goals," Auditor Matt Beaton says.

Rick Miller believes the fear and potential embarrassment of another potential fraud is enough motivation.

"We've learned from the mistakes, very expensive mistakes," Miller says.

Since his first time in court, on February 3rd of last year, Huston has spent time and tax dollars in front of a judge seven times. More costs on your dime.

"I hope he gets what due to him," Miller states.

The new auditing equipment is being implemented gradually and should be up and running this spring.