By Mike Luery
ANGELS CAMP, Calif. (CBS13) — A northern California town is literally digging for clues about what happened to some missing money. Deep inside a crawl space beneath city hall in Angels Camp, there’s a mystery involving tens of thousands of dollars.
The money comes from residents in the Greenhorn Creek Resort, a subdivision in Angels Camp, located in Calaveras County.
Homeowners at Greenhorn Creek have been paying about $300 a year into a special lighting and landscaping district. But in the town that Mark Twain made famous, city leaders are now trying to figure out why $30,000 in landscaping fees is missing in action.
When asked how the money went missing, Angels camp city attorney Richard Matranga responded, “That’s a good question.”
Angels Camp has launched a financial audit that includes digging deep for records underneath city hall.
“So far, you know I’ve dug under the house with the guys and I have not found anything that helps me any further that what I’ve got,” said city finance officer Melisa Ralston. “The bottom line is the more I look, the more questions I have.”
Angels Camp residents are also asking questions.
“What happened to the money?” Jim Bidwell wondered. The Greenhorn Creek resident added, “Where is it? Was it misappropriated?”
Homeowner Carl Smith says the missing money is a mystery to him too. “I didn’t know anything about it. I’m actually shocked,” Smith told CBS 13.
The problem stems from sloppy record keeping dating back more than 15 years. Dave Richards, the interim administrator for Angels Camp explained, “We had 8 years where the city was responsible for the money that was being collected, but didn’t have any direct oversight.”
And now Angels Camp officials are checking their books with Calaveras County, to find out why the two sets of records don’t add up.
City Attorney Richard Matranga told CBS 13, “There should be a paper trail if there’s a theft or embezzlement problem. And that’s what we’re looking for right now.”
They suspect a clerical error is to blame, but they’re searching high and low for clues to track down the missing money.
City leaders in Angels Camp say they hope to have answers within 90 days – but if not, they may have to spring for an outside audit, which could cost up to $10,000.