Douglas County commissioners impose $250,000 added bond on suspended treasurer

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EAST WENATCHEE — Douglas County’s elected treasurer apologized Tuesday to the board of county commissioners, four weeks after they suspended her from office for late tax payments that cost the county $93,000 in IRS late fees.

Natalie Marx, a former deputy treasurer who was elected to the post in 2018, said the losses are her responsibility.

“I’m very disappointed in myself because I’ve always taken my job extremely seriously, and I value the community services we provide, and the taxpayer dollars are extremely important and invaluable to serving the community,” Marx told the three-member board in an East Wenatchee public hearing.

“Too often we see corruption in government, and that’s not … I don’t believe that is what happened here. Unfortunately, my personal and work lives got a little out of balance this past year. And I’m not making excuses. .. But I just wasn’t performing to my best self.”

“I know that is heartfelt,” said Commissioner Marc Straub, current chair of the board. “And I would say that on the behalf of the board, the reason that we are pursuing this as we are is out of the same concern for our taxpayers, and for the county as a whole.”

State law allows the commissioners to suspend a treasurer from office by filing a court injunction, if there’s evidence of misconduct or failure to perform official duties. Douglas County commissioners took that step with Marx on Aug. 31, after she failed 13 times in the last 18 months to make timely deposits of federally required payroll tax. Instead, the deposits went through anywhere from one to four days after their due date, accumulating mandatory IRS late fees each time.

Marx is not accused of any criminal wrongdoing. Former Douglas County Treasurer Nona Haberman is currently managing the office during Marx’s suspension. The county is now undergoing a full audit.

“I think I speak unanimously for the board here that we don’t feel there was ill intentions toward the county — that this was intentional in any way,” said Commissioner Kyle Steinburg. “Life got in the way, some things happened.”

As required by state law, Marx took out a $150,000 surety bond after her election to defend against potential losses brought on by the performance of her office. At the public hearing Tuesday, commissioners passed a resolution requiring her to take out an additional $250,000 surety bond against any still-unforeseen losses.

“The $150,000, we feel, is probably going to be consumed by expenses and repayments,” Steinburg said, “so an additional $250,000 above and beyond that.”

The costs of the new surety bond will be covered by Douglas County, not by Marx herself.