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October 13, 2012

Who Bears Concurrent Responsibility?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 4:58 pm

In an online article Saturday headlined “Embezzling suspect pleads guilty,” the Coeur d’Alene Press skewspaper reported that former City employee Sheryl Lynn Carroll has pleaded guilty to six counts of wire fraud involving her electronic diversion of funds from the City’s account to her own accounts rather than to the intended recipients.  (I believe the skewspaper’s report is technically incorrect.  The former employee has offered a guilty plea which has been tentatively accepted by the US Attorney’s Office,  but it is my understanding that the plea hearing in front of a Federal District Court judge has not yet occurred.)

Assume that the guilty pleas will be accepted by the Federal District Court as offered in documents filed Friday with the Federal District Court.  Clearly Carroll has primary responsibility for her actions, but there are other City officials who need to be held accountable for creating an environment in which she was able to allegedly divert about $365,000 to her own accounts without detection for about ten years.   Simply put, they failed to exercise proper supervision as the duties of their employment or office require.

The article identifies her supervisor as City Finance Department Director Troy Tymesen.  Tymesen will institute corrections to close the barn door now that the $365,000 horse has gone.   According to the article, ” He [Tymesen] said the department will also implement ‘mini-audits’ on wire transfers during the year, in addition to keeping its annual audit.”  Well, wait a minute.  These alleged diversions occurred regularly (one or more per month) over several years.  Why didn’t the annual audit pick up on that and make recommendations that would have made the diversions difficult or impossible?   Why didn’t the annual audit recognize the conditions were ripe for wire fraud and recommend safeguards to protect against it?  Electronic fund transfers have been commonplace for years.  Why hadn’t the City’s Finance Director already put safeguards in place to protect against the wire fraud?

Carroll had been convicted in Oregon of first degree theft of $9000 in 1983.  According to the article, “City Administrator Wendy Gabriel said in that article the city did not know about Carroll’s past when they hired her, and that in light of the embezzlement case, all finance department positions will be added to the city’s FBI background checks.”  Didn’t City Human Resources Director Pam MacDonald examine all of Carroll’s employment history and call former employers?  Even though Carroll was convicted in 1983 under the surname Anderson, a diligent background investigation even by telephone would have at least revealed that conviction.  It was City Administrator Wendy Gabriel and Human Resources Director Pam MacDonald’s responsibility to ensure that suitably thorough background investigations were done on all applicants being considered for positions of public trust.   It was their responsibility, not the FBI’s,  to define the parameters of the background investigations for employment with the City of Coeur d’Alene.

It would be easy to stop with Gabriel, Tymesen, and MacDonald, but Coeur d’Alene Mayor Bloem and City Council members Reid, Hassell, Edinger, Goodlander, McEvers, Kennedy, and Bruning bear some responsibility for their own failures to exercise supervisory direction over City department heads.  This failure was demonstrated by Council members Goodlander, Kennedy, and McEvers at the September 4, 2012, Council meeting during discussion of a motion by Council member Gookin to remove some budget items.   Goodlander verbally attacked Gookin for daring to question the staff’s budget proposals.  Kennedy excoriated Gookin and stated Kennedy believes it is the role of a Council member to act as a board member of a Corporation and trust staff.  Trust the staff.  Blindly and without public questioning?  Apparently, at least according to Kennedy.

Perhaps if the Mayor and Council members back to 2002 had been a little less blindly trusting of staff and instead had verified that adequate safeguards were in place, there wouldn’t have been approximately $365,000 allegedly fraudulently diverted by a former City employee.

It is not the job of our elected officials to stroke staffs’ collective egos by turning a blind eye to conditions that can result in harm to the City.   It is the elected officials’ jobs to ensure that department heads are performing their administrative duties diligently, lawfully, and ethically.  When, as in this case, some department heads failed to perform the duties of their position adequately, the elected officials need to accept some responsibility themselves, discipline where appropriate,  and then take steps to ensure the failures don’t occur.

Trust but verify.

9 Comments

  1. The skewspaper article stated, “Carroll faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each count, the plea agreement states.”

    Carroll will be sentenced under provisions of the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

    Comment by Bill — October 14, 2012 @ 7:13 am

  2. It took reporter Dan Popkey to discover that our Governor had appointed a woman to the Judicial Council that had been convicted of a felony from the ITD or else the entire council and Supreme Court was ready to move her in the door.

    Again,this is the Idaho way. It stinks all the way to the top …

    This fiasco with the city is just another example of how Idaho works and how they plead forgiveness after they have been caught. They can take their mini audits and their cries of ignorance somewhere else. Wendy Gabriel, Troy Tyemeson, and the Mayor and et. al. have proved conclusively that they have been sitting on their laurels with blind eyes while they literally rape the public. Throwing tomatoes at these incompetent idiots is much too nice of a way to express dissatisfaction. Wendy Gabriel is not fit to hire anyone and obviously they do not know how to budget anything but maybe how much goes into their own pocketbook. They all need to be shown the door.

    No wonder they have been claiming trust in their staff – they knew it was coming. They need to pack up and ship out. I bet they can’t get that new public relations person in the door fast enough. She would be an idiot as well to accept the job.

    Comment by Stebbijo — October 14, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  3. I think the 2013 city council should ask for numerous resignations from the department heads on day one,including the city attorney.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 14, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

  4. Ancientemplar,

    I wonder how many of them will be eligible for retirement? Aside from the City Attorney, who else do you believe ought to leave? Which department heads ought to be retained?

    Comment by Bill — October 14, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

  5. Bill

    I believe Tymesen, Gabriel, MacDonoald and the city attorney should ALL be fired immediately for derelict of duty. I believe kennedy should give an IMMEDIATE resignation for his unprofessional excoriation of Dan Gookin who was doing his job. I also believe that Magnuson, McHugh and Company should NEVER EVER get another contract with the city since they too failed to do the job they were hired to do when contracting independent outside audits. I must say tongue in cheek at the “OUTSIDE” and INDEPENDENT”.

    Comment by concerned citizen — October 14, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  6. Terminate Tymesen, Bariel, MacDonald and the city attorney for dereliction of duty? Hmm. I don’t know what legislative district each of them live in, but I am pretty sure that there are not enough Idaho Legislature positions for them to run for like English is doing. On another note, at least coming to work this a.m. I spotted Morris signs. Maybe he is going to make a ‘run’ for it afterall.

    Comment by up river — October 15, 2012 @ 7:31 am

  7. I agree with concerned citizen.

    Comment by LTR — October 15, 2012 @ 7:31 am

  8. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the “real mayor” Doug Eastwood. He’s the power in this town, he gets what he wants.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 15, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  9. This is a great article, Bill. Thank you for writing it!

    Comment by mary — October 15, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

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