Questions raised about animal control director's past 2 years after she was hired

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SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) (4/23/2018) - Some Saginaw County commissioners are asking questions about Lisa Stoffel's past two years after she was hired to lead the county's animal control department.

Commissioners who were part of the search and interview process say a full background check was completed before she was hired and Stoffel provided a satisfactory explanation of the incident.

But some current and past county commissioners say they just learned of Stoffel's legal issues recently.

Saginaw County Controller Robert Belleman and three other people interviewed Stoffel for the vacant animal control director job in 2016 via Skype.

Like all the candidates, Belleman told Stoffel she would be subject to a background check if hired and asked what that would show. That is when her arrest related to a case of embezzlement, perjury and bad checks came up.

"Lisa was very transparent," Belleman said. "She brought up all of the issues involving embezzlement charges, perjury, and bad check writing, which were all in her mind and from my perspective interrelated with an abusive relationship, domestic violence situation that she found herself in, that during that period of time."

He acknowledged she didn't make good decisions, but was ultimately was cleared of most allegations.

Court documents and newspaper accounts from Fairbanks, Alaska, show Lisa Rapp, as she was known in 2004, was a victim in a domestic violence case with her ex-husband. But a 10-month investigation by the Alaskan Bureau of Investigation also resulted in her arrest for stealing money from her place of employment, the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

The theft charges were dropped in exchange for a no-contest plea to perjury related to the domestic violence case. The state of Alaska eventually ruled Stoffel could withdraw her no-contest plea to the perjury charge for what the state assistant attorney general called a manifest injustice.

Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel said his department was asked to do a quick background check in 2016 on Lisa Stoffel and his deputy only saw one red flag.

"The only thing they saw was a bad check incident, but they indicated it had been set aside or cleared," Belleman said.

The deputy was using Stoffel's employment application that she filled out for the job and was not aware she also went by the name of Lisa Rapp, where online court records show her past legal issues.

On her application, Stoffel says she worked for the State of Alaska from 2001 to 2005. There is no mention of her working at a credit union in March of 2004, where the Fairbanks newspaper reported Stoffel was arrested in connection with that correctional center embezzlement case.

The Alaska Department of Corrections confirmed she spent at least five days in jail.

The news of Stoffel's past surprised many of the Saginaw County commissioners we spoke with. Cheryl Hadsell didn't know when she approved her hiring, but stands by the job Stoffel is doing at the animal control center.

Former commissioner Pat Wurtzel, who voted to approve her hiring in 2016 and agrees that Stoffel is doing a good job, said he is upset that the four people on the hiring panel knew of her past and didn't share the information with the entire Board of Commissioners.

Belleman stands by his decision to keep Stoffel's past to himself and the three members of the hiring panel.

"I look at the criminal report," Belleman said. "If there is nothing on it, if there is nothing out there, it doesn't exist."

He also supports the 45-year-old animal control director.

"Lisa has done a superior job at bringing all the diverse views and perspectives in trying to develop a clear path -- to make sure we are talking care of the all of the animals," Bellman said.

He advised Stoffel not to talk about details of her the legal situation, but she said she did not steal any money.

Her last job in Alaska before coming to Saginaw in 2016 was at the Fairbanks Animal Control Center, where her boss said she was the best officer at the department.

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