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Gavel and law books

Gavel and law books

POLSON — A former manager has been charged with stealing more than $4,200 from the Mission Valley Aquatics Center in Polson.

Last week, Deputy Lake County Attorney Ben Anciaux charged Jeffrey Smith with felony theft, alleging it occurred while Smith was working as the manager of the nonprofit swimming pool.

In this role, Smith had access to a credit card to make purchases and pay bills for Mission Valley Aquatics, Anciaux wrote in charging documents. “During the period between Feb. 8, 2017 and July 22, 2018, (Smith) used the credit card to purchase personal items and pay personal bills. The total amount purchased by the Defendant totals $4,211.68.”

If convicted of theft or the alternative charge of deceptive practices, Smith could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $50,000, or both. Lake County District Court Judge Deborah Kim Christopher recused herself from the case, and the other Lake County judge, James Manley, declined jurisdiction.

Missoula County District Court Judge John Larson is overseeing the case, and an arraignment hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, March 21, at 8:30 a.m. in the Missoula County Courthouse.

Ben Montgomery, president of Mission Valley Aquatics’ board, said that “as soon as we were aware of the discrepancy, we reported it to the authorities." He said Smith resigned from the center in November. No money has been recovered, he said.

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Mission Valley Aquatics was founded in 2003 and opened its Polson swimming facility in 2013. On its 2017 tax forms, it reported a loss of nearly $143,000, total assets of $4.8 million and liabilities of $5.6 million.

It’s already seen legal trouble. Last month, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry awarded a former lifeguard nearly $60,000 in damages after a hearing examiner found merit in her claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. Jeffrey Smith served as a witness in the contested-case hearing that led to that ruling.

“We are making a lot of changes in our organization,” said Montgomery, the board’s president, including changes in leadership and revisions to its management policies.

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