Ex-Skamania County auditor pleads not guilty to shredding documents

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: January 12, 2012, 4:45 PM

 
photoJ. Michael Garvison

— A former ­Skamania County ­auditor accused of unauthorized spending during his tenure pleaded not guilty Thursday to shredding public ­documents.

J. Michael Garvison, 40, appeared in Skamania County Superior Court for his first appearance and arraignment. He entered not-guilty pleas to two felony counts of injury to public record.

Judge Brian Altman said a trial date will scheduled by Tuesday.

Garvison, who resigned as auditor in November 2009 shortly after news of his expenditures became public, is not in jail. He agreed to appear in court through his attorney, Jon McMullen.

Asked by the judge for his current address, Garvison did not want to say. In the packed courtroom, his attorney asked that he disclose the address “off the record.”

Court documents show Garvison now lives in Ohio.

After his case was in limbo for two years, Garvison was charged last month on allegations that between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 28, 2009, he “did willfully and unlawfully remove, alter, mutilate, destroy, conceal or obliterate a record ... filed or deposited in a public office,” according to court documents.

The records in question were vouchers that showed Garvison’s expenditures in 2003 and 2004. A state audit had found Garvison used thousands of dollars in public money for unauthorized travel, education and office equipment expenses over four years as the county’s elected auditor.

The unauthorized expenses included 13 out-of-state trips, including two conferences in Florida and one in Las Vegas. For 2008 and 2009, he had allegedly billed the county for about $83,000 worth of trips.

Investigators said Garvison ordered his staff to destroy the records, though the state does not permit destroying the records within a six-year retention period.

Outside court Thursday, McMullen declined to make a statement, only saying that his client maintained his innocence.

Prosecutors said they anticipate the defense may request a change of venue because of the community’s familiarity with Garvison and his case.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.