The St. Ignatius City Council member charged Monday with embezzling nearly $60,000 from the volunteer fire department auxiliary will likely retain her seat as the felony charge is pending, the town's city attorney said Tuesday.
Annie Morigeau is accused of embezzling from the St. Ignatius Volunteer Fire Department through her role as the secretary for the department's auxiliary, Lake County prosecutors said Monday.
Her husband, Jeremiah Morigeau, is the St. Ignatius Volunteer Fire Chief.
Jail records show Annie Morigeau was booked on $50,000 bail, and held on embezzlement and theft charges.
Auxiliary officials began reviewing the organization's finances after she refused to disclose documents to the board, Deputy Lake County Attorney Ben Anciaux told the Missoulian this week. The alleged scheme is believed to have taken place from December 2016 until last May, accumulating $59,801.
While the fire department's auxiliary is a separate entity from the St. Ignatius local government, City Attorney Molly Owen said Morigeau will likely hold her seat on the City Council as the case is pending.
"We do have that presumption of innocence," Owen said in a phone interview. "She hasn't resigned or anything."
Elected officials can be removed from their office if convicted of a felony or any offense involving "moral turpitude," Owen said.
"She's been charged with a felony that also involves moral turpitude," Owen said.
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Owen added that the city is awaiting further guidance from the Montana League of Cities and Towns on how to handle the situation.
"It's still kind of up in the air right now," she said.
Morigeau was elected to the council in 2017.
As a volunteer fire department, St. Ignatius receives its funding from both city and county property taxes. The auxiliary offers a third source of revenue, which typically comes in the form of fundraisers and picnics.
Assistant Fire Chief Reese Bailey told the Missoulian the taxpayer money coming into the department was not a part of the funds allegedly embezzled in Morigeau’s case; only the auxiliary was affected, he said.
Bailey, who is also on the auxiliary board, said the auxiliary had no comment on the case at this time.
In the meantime, Jeremiah Morigeau has not been asked to step down or done so publicly, to Bailey’s knowledge. He said what comes of Jeremiah Morigeau’s place atop the volunteer department has yet to be determined.
“It’s all so sudden right now,” he said.
A message left at phone number for Jeremiah Morigeau was not immediately returned Tuesday.