Richard “Dick” Hammond, former accountant for Afton Care Center, said he’s “done.” But is he?
After Des Moines Register Watchdog Reporter Lee Rood wrote an investigative piece in 2010 on unpaid court debts, she was contacted by Afton Care Center Board President Steve Kline, who was miffed by unpaid restitution from Hammond, who was charged in July 1996 with first-degree theft, to which he later pleaded guilty.
Hammond’s first-degree theft charge was reduced to third-degree theft and he was given probation, as long as he continued to pay the requested restitution of $38,400.
After Kline contacted Rood, she investigated further and published a story in the Register on April 28, which stated Hammond had “paid nowhere near that amount” of $38,400.
“The Afton Care Center’s case was based on the fact that, as their accountant, he was doing the IRS tax return and things,” said Arnold O. “Skip” Kenyon, who is the attorney for the Afton Care Center. “They (Afton Care Center) gave him the money to pay for those things, and those things did not get paid.”
Kenyon said the shortage of cash flow was discovered when the United States Internal Revenue Service placed a lien against the Afton Care Center for lack of payment.
In a Creston News Advertiser interview Wednesday, Hammond said he opened a trust account in December 1979, out of which he paid payroll taxes on behalf of his clients. When those payments began to bounce, he realized some of his clients wrote “bad checks” to reimburse the account.
“I left the account open for three more months hoping the businesses would make good,” said Hammond. “They did not.”
Hammond said he purchased the accounting firm in January 1980. To make the transition smooth for his clients, he used the same procedures as his predecessor.
By doing so, Hammond feels he got the short end of the stick.
On April 29, the day after Rood’s article featuring Hammond ran in the Des Moines Register, Hammond — upset by the article — contacted Rood to let her know his debt had been paid in full.
Allison Danilovich at the Union County Clerk’s office said Hammond made a cash payment that morning of $36,237.50 in restitution and fees, which covered his criminal judgment, and he also received credit toward a civil judgment, which stemmed from the same charges.
The only problem now, a civil judgment entered on Aug. 4, 1998, remains open because of unpaid interest of more than $25,000, based on the original criminal judgment amount of $38,400 accruing interest at 7.37 percent since it was filed.
“I don’t think he knows,” said Danilovich.
According to Kenyon, part of what happened was a change in the state’s collection unit.
Danilovich said collection laws changed approximately three years ago, adopting a more aggressive approach to collections in order to collect revenue more efficiently for the state.
Because of this change, the responsibility of collections moved from the hands of the county attorney to the state of Iowa Department of Revenue and Finance.
“They add 10 percent,” said the Danilovich. “After a year at the (state) collectors, they (the state) sends it to Linebarger (a treasury collection agency), and they add 25 percent.”
According to Kenyon, Hammond was paying just enough while on probation to keep out of prison, which Danilovich said was $100 a month. He stopped paying that in May 2012 after he made a $25 payment to reinstate his vehicle registration.
With Hammond not making his monthly payments, the Afton Care Center was also not receiving restitution.
Kenyon said his staff have tried for years to collect from Hammond but “he never seemed to have it.”
“Magically, when the Register showed up, he (Hammond) showed up with cash at the clerk’s office. I mean cash, $36,000, cash,” said Kenyon.
Kenyon said he has tried many things on behalf of the Afton Care Center to garnish wages or bank accounts, but those accounts were not viable.
“We’ve levied on bank accounts,” said Kenyon. “Every year or two we would give it another shot. And we did it again this year and came up empty.”
Kenyon said, because this is an attempt to collect money on a civil judgment, it is not the same as a criminal judgment, where Hammond would be breaking probation or face jail time.
As of today, restitution has been paid, however, interest and fees remain.
“For now, a lien will stay out there for 20 years,” said Kenyon. “If we can ever find him with some money in his hands, we can take it.”