News & Features

Former Manager of Flathead Joint Board of Control Faces Embezzlement Charges

Johanna Estella Clark pleaded not guilty to 17 counts in U.S. District Court on June 3

The former executive manager of the now-dissolved Flathead Joint Board of Control pleaded not guilty to a host of charges in U.S. District Court in Missoula on June 3, all related to her alleged misuse of board funds for personal expenses.

Johanna Estella Clark could face significant fines and a lengthy prison term if convicted of all of the charges, which include 13 counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. She is alleged to have stolen more than $28,000 from the organization between 2014 and 2017.

In court documents, Clark is accused of using two Flathead Joint Board of Control (FJBC) credit cards for personal use and racking up thousands of dollars in charges. The unauthorized purchases Clark is alleged to have made include a guitar and accessories ($1,151.57), silver coins ($2,151), a mattress ($2,249), two beds ($1,733.98) and thousands of dollars in camera equipment. The fraudulent charges total more than $25,000. Clark also allegedly forged two checks from the FJBC to deposit more than $3,300 into her personal bank account, and is further accused of impersonating FJBC board members. Clark’s trial is set to begin on July 28.

The FJBC was a governmental organization that represented thousands of irrigators in the Flathead, Mission and Jocko valleys as part of the Flathead Irrigation Project. It was founded in the early 1980s and disbanded in 2013 amid a debate over what would become the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact. The FJBC reformed in 2014 and unsuccessfully sued in opposition to the compact. It was forced to dissolve in 2018 after a judge ruled it reformed without holding an election.

The FBI began investigating the FJBC in 2017 and Clark, who worked for the organization starting in 2013, was fired around the time the investigation began.

andy@flatheadbeacon.com