$34,000 in equipment 'lost' at Naval Academy

September 16, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

Nearly $34,000 worth of personal computers and equipment has disappeared from one building at the U.S. Naval Academy during the past two years, according to an academy source and documents obtained by The Sun. But neither federal police nor naval investigators has mounted a probe.

Three dozen Zenith computer items -- ranging from personal and laptop computers to printers and monitors -- have been reported missing from the Division of Professional Development in Luce Hall since August 1992.

The equipment was sent to the department between 1987 and 1990, the reports state. Some of the documents say there is no record of the equipment ever being used.

The total dollar value was $33,802, according to 10 property loss reports. About half those losses were reported Aug. 14, 1992, while the rest were discovered Jan. 15 this year. Each report marks the equipment as "lost."

All 10 reports were signed June 6 by the two top naval officers in Professional Development, Cmdr. Donald L. Eberly and Capt. David L. Peck, and on Sept. 2 by Capt. Syd W. Rodenbarger, who heads the academy's supply division.

Karen Myers, a Naval Academy spokeswoman, said Commander Eberly, who investigated the losses, deemed them a "paperwork problem.

"Records were not being kept," said Ms. Myers. "There was no suspicion of theft."

But a Navy law enforcement source said it is unlikely that such a large amount of computer equipment could be lost and argued that academy officials should investigate to determine whether anything was stolen.

"Thirty-four thousand dollars doesn't just disappear," the source said. "It should be investigated. They just kind of write it off."

The source said it was unusual that the Department of Defense Security Police or the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which usually handles thefts exceeding $1,000, was not asked to investigate the losses.

Ms. Myers said much of the equipment was "so old and obsolete" that the NCIS was not called in. She had no dollar estimate on the loss nor any immediate information on the replacement costs.

Capt. Tom Jurkowsky, another academy spokesman, said the

$34,000 cost estimate was based on the price of the equipment when it was new. Much of what was missing was beyond repair and worth only about $50, he said.

Each report says there was a search for the equipment between the time it was reported lost and June. Ms. Myers said -- and the reports also note -- that two ensigns began the first comprehensive inventory of computer equipment in July 1992. "The paperwork was tightened in 1992," she said.

But five of the reports indicate problems continued well after that, with one saying that a "sight inventory" in February revealed "several computers missing."

That report says two $1,524 laptop computers received in August 1990 were among a number used for summer training last year. One of the computers was misplaced by Technical Programs Department enlisted personnel last fall, and the other was lost after it was transferred to the Aero Engineering Department.

Navy officials searched Luce Hall, the Aero Engineering Department and the academy's 44-foot sailboats for the computers.

"All records of the computers being checked out prior to January 1994 had been either lost or detroyed," according to the report.

Another report says that in December, 41 personal computers were moved out of Luce Hall for disposal or transfer. While 30 of them were transferred to other commands and four were redistributed within Professional Development, "the other seven computers were misplaced, transferred without paperwork or improperly disposed of," it says. The computers cost $1,034 each.

Moreover, enlisted technicians assigned to the Technical Programs Department "believed they could discard property that was beyond economic repair," the reports say, noting that was the practice before December 1992.

Procedures for the receipt of new material have been improved, wrote Commander Eberly in each of the June reports:

"When new equipment is delivered it is locked in a separate room until properly labeled, added to the inventory list, and distributed to the end user. Personnel have been instructed on proper survey/excessing procedures. A custodian has been established who has been made responsible for checking out portable equipment and records maintenance. Equipment is no longer thrown away if damaged beyond repair."

Ms. Myers said damaged computers now are used either for spare parts or shipped to Fort Meade for disposal.

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