Missing Libby Chamber currency prompts Sheriff’s investigation, revised protocols; outstanding ‘Libby Bucks’ must be validated by March 1 to remain usable

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After discovering an unknown number of its “Libby Bucks” had gone missing, the Libby Area Chamber of Commerce this week announced it had notified the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and is revamping the decades-old program intended to boost local spending.

As a result, the Chamber instituted new policies and procedures, “effective immediately,” governing the tracking, sale and use of the $10 certificates, which can be purchased from the Chamber and used as cash at its members’ businesses.

“All Libby Bucks purchased from the Chamber office will have a serial number affixed to the front of the certificate,” a Dec. 27 Chamber news release states. “The name of the purchaser and the person handling the transaction will be noted in a log book along with the serial number of the certificates. When the certificates are used and we retrieve them from the area banks, each Libby Buck will be logged back into the system.”

Meanwhile, outstanding Libby Bucks can be used until March 1. Thereafter, according to the news release, “area banks will require Libby Bucks to be serial numbered before they will treat them as cash” — a courtesy banks provide local Chamber businesses as part of their regular banking deposits.

To spend or deposit unnumbered Libby Bucks after March 1, people or businesses must validate those certificates by taking them to the Chamber’s office at 905 W 9th St. in Libby, where staff will assign each one a serial number and log it into the new tracking system.

“If you have a great number of (certificates) and are concerned about bank clearance, call the office and we can arrange to have someone come by your business for revalidation stamping,” the news release states.

The Chamber does not yet know how many Libby Bucks are missing or for how long they have been missing, said Board President Amber Holm via email.

“We hope that during the validation process we will be able to get a good idea of how many are in circulation, and a better idea of how many may be unaccounted for,” she wrote. “The proper internal controls have been non-existent, so there really isn’t a way of knowing how long there could have been unaccounted-for bucks missing.”

“I don’t think that the Chamber has yet covered the expense of unaccounted Libby Bucks,” Holm continued. “But we expect to get an idea of that amount through the validation process.”

The Chamber board consulted with local banks, the Chamber’s finance committee, regional Chambers, and past board members to determine what new policies and procedures to implement, Holm wrote — but not before considering whether the Chamber should continue the program, which she said has been in place for about three decades.

“The Board strongly considered dissolving the program,” she wrote. “But knowing that it helped to keep so much money in our community, (dissolving) it was hard to justify. Our treasurer (Liz Whalen) and the Chamber’s new finance committee have worked diligently to create a process for tracking that we hope will prevent future issues.”

The Chamber sold more than $55,000 worth of Libby Bucks in 2017, Holm said, with more than half of that amount purchased during the year-end holiday season.

“We sold quite a few in December as many businesses used them as holiday bonuses for employees,” she wrote, noting that they are also commonly purchased as gifts or as prizes fior use in fundraising.

Holm did not specify how the Chamber discovered the missing Libby Bucks.

“There are a variety of things that have come up, all of which we have discussed with the Sheriff’s Office,” she wrote.

Sheriff Roby Bowe said the lack of accounting for the missing certificates would “not necessarily” hinder the investigation, though he noted that “it’s just one of those cases that takes some time.”

“I don’t really want to comment much more until we get a little further on in the investigation,” he said.

Bowe said it was “too soon” to say whether this is a theft case.

For more information about purchasing new or validating existing Libby Bucks, call the Chamber at 406-293-4167.

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