Fill-in hired for Great Barrington treasurer's office after alleged theft prompts dismissal of longtime worker

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Amid an ongoing probe of a longtime town employee suspected of stealing money from town coffers, officials have hired a former employee to work in the treasurer/collector's office.

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin told the Select Board on Monday that, on a temporary basis, the town has brought in Ellie Smith, who previously worked in the treasurer/collector's office.

Smith will presumably fill in for former assistant treasurer/collector Deborah Ball, who was dismissed earlier this month after a financial audit revealed that money is missing from a town account.

Ball, 62, has neither been arrested nor charged.

Town officials declined to comment, citing privacy laws regarding personnel matters.

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The State Police Detective Unit attached to the District Attorney's Office, as well as Great Barrington Police, are conducting the investigation, according to both.

It's still unclear, however, how much money is gone.

Tabakin said the audit by the firm Scanlon & Associates is still underway. Several sources familiar with the matter say the audit could take months to complete.

The treasurer/collector's office collects residents' property, personal and excise taxes, as well as sewer bills and alarm charges and permits. The office also takes payments for the Great Barrington Fire District Water Department.

The town's website says the treasurer/collector "works to maximize investment earnings while keeping the funds 100% secure and safe and in accordance with Massachusetts General Law and our investment policy."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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