Police employee fired after discovery of cash thefts

December 01, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

TC A Howard County Police Department employee was fired last week after a routine audit of the property section uncovered the gradual theft of more than $3,000 in cash.

No criminal charges have been filed. Police are continuing their investigation of the theft, in which small amounts were stolen several times during 1989. Records for other years are also being investigated.

"I am extremely disappointed it happened," said Police Chief James N. Robey. "We are reviewing our entire process down there to assure it won't happen again."

The missing cash was uncovered during a routine audit of the property section in October.

County Auditor Ronald S. Weinstein had asked Assistant Auditor Brenda Dean to examine the Police Department's internal controls over sensitive items such as cash, drugs, jewelry and guns that were confiscated in arrests and used as evidence in trials.

"We were looking at the whole process," Mr. Weinstein said, to determine how property is received, how it is protected, how it gets to and from court and how it is disposed of once a case is closed.

The best way to follow that trail, Mr. Weinstein said, is to track a

group of cases. It was during that tracking that Ms. Dean found small discrepancies between the cash reported and the cash accounted for in several 1989 cases, Mr. Weinstein said.

Although the auditor usually waits until the audit is complete -- which can take a couple of months -- before sharing findings with the administration, Ms. Dean told Chief Robey immediately, and he began an investigation of his own.

"I assigned a team of auditors to every case" in the property department Chief Robey said. "That investigation is still going on" and will last several more weeks.

Criminal charges, if any, will not

be filed until the investigation is complete, Chief Robey said. He confirmed that the amount stolen so far is about $3,000.

The county refused to release the name of the fired employee.

"I would deem all personnel issues, particularly disciplinary issues, to be confidential," said Joanne T. Nelson, county personnel administrator.

The fired employee was suspended with pay Nov. 20 and fired after an administrative hearing four days later.

An employee has 15 days in which to appeal a firing to the county personnel board. No appeal has been filed in the current case.

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