DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- An ex-employee of a Fort Dodge cemetery may be the cause of financial irregularities that prompted an investigation by state officials.
The Iowa Securities Bureau said Monday it will be looking into the financial practices of Fort Dodge Memorial Park Cemetery, a perpetual care cemetery.
Under Iowa law, perpetual care cemeteries must pay a minimum percentage, usually 20 percent, of money raised from interment fees into a trust. By law, the interest from the trust can only be used for maintenance of the cemetery and the principal may not be used.
The other 80 percent of the interment fee can be used for operating expenses, such as salaries or profit.
Fort Dodge Memorial Park Cemetery has not paid into its trust since Jan. 1, 1996, said Dennis N. Britson, director of the Regulated Industries Unit of the Iowa Securities Bureau.
The lawyer for cemetery owner-manager Ron Roberts said a former employee is responsible for the financial troubles.
Ex-assistant manager Rodney Patterson was indicted last month on two counts of forgery and one count of theft. Assistant Webster County Attorney Tim Schott said police reports have the amount Patterson allegedly stole from the cemetery ``in excess of $18,000.''
Patterson, who allegedly took the money in the period between June 1997 and April 1998, is awaiting trial.
Patterson has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment Monday.
Britson said he is aware of Patterson's indictment, and that it will be part of the investigation.
State authorities could not say how much money is missing from the trust. Tammy Augustus of the Regulated Industries Unit said the cemetery suffered from poor record keeping, making an estimate difficult.
``We'll be going to Fort Dodge soon and checking records to see what's been paid,'' Augustus said.
The state is requesting that anyone who has made payments to the cemetery in the last four years, for grave spaces or any other type of services, contact the Iowa Securities Bureau.