There are important things happening right now which will seriously affect the future of our city, our state and our nation. But it’s the Christmas season and no one really wants to pay attention to two pesky, huge problems. Yet we must.
First, our City is dealing with the embezzlement of $365,000 of taxpayer money. Tonight’s city council meeting might focus on some of the consequences, so I’ll tell you about it in today’s Part 1 of this Action Alert newsletter, and then you can attend the meeting tonight at 6:00 pm in the lower level of the Library downtown or watch it live on Channel 19.
Secondly, the Governor has recently declared that Idaho will set up state exchanges to help implement Obamacare. But then he also said he might change his mind. Hmmm. This is a serious problem of national proportions because half of the states in our country have already refused to set up state exchanges. It’s part of the effort to resist Obamacare and retain our individual and state’s rights. I’ll send you more info in Part 2 of this newsletter tomorrow and ask for your help.
So those are the two big topics. Let’s get started on Part 1:
You all know that Sheryl Carroll, who worked in the City’s Finance Dept., embezzled $365,000 of payroll-related money over the course of six years. No one noticed. There were no systems in place to catch this kind of illegal activity and no supervision to the degree that would have prevented or discovered it. But that’s not all.
When Sheryl Carroll applied to the City of CdA, back in 2002, according to City Administrator Wendy Gabriel, the City did not know that this woman, who would be handling enormous amounts of public money, was a convicted embezzler. They didn’t do a thorough background check.
Sheryl Carroll, whose name was Sheryl Anderson back in 1982, was convicted and sent to jail for 5 months with an additional 5 years of probation because she embezzled money from an Oregon real estate company.
Pam McDonald, HR Director for the City admitted to the Press last August that there were serious problems with the city’s job application process that allowed Sheryl Carroll to be hired without uncovering her past felony conviction.
And City Finance Director, Troy Tymeson, who was Sheryl Carroll’s boss, is trying to sweep this whole mess to the side and sound reassuring as he talks about the city’s upcoming regular yearly audit by Magnuson McHugh. The same audit by the same company that was done each and every year that Sheryl Carroll was stealing from us. Those audits didn’t show any missing money.
I want to tell you, dear readers, what I’ve learned about audits. This is important: Audits are only done on the accounts that the customer asks the auditor to review. It does not mean that the auditors check over all the details and all the money flowing from one place to another to make sure it is all correct.
So here’s what the City Council will vote on tonight—whether to give the contract for the City’s regular yearly audit to Magnuson McHugh again. Maybe they should get someone else in the game? Or maybe they should order a much more in-depth and comprehensive audit?
No Finance Dept. systems in place to catch the embezzlement. The same audit company year after year after year. Poorly structured job application. No FBI background check. All of these mistakes were made for a job position that handles millions of taxpayer dollars. But Mayor Bloem isn’t concerned. She says no one, other than Sheryl Carroll, did anything wrong.
Boise Weekly online carried this story last week: “After watching one of its finance department employees admit to stealing $365,000 of public funds, the City of Coeur d’Alene has decided not to reprimand anyone else in the department. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports that the Coeur d’Alene City Council is expected to consider a new audit of its fiscal controls when it meets on Tuesday, Dec. 18. But the city’s mayor, Sandi Bloem, said the meeting’s discussion “shouldn’t veer toward punitive issues inside the finance department. The punishment is going to take place with the person who did the wrongdoing. The other employees in the department, there was no wrongdoing,” Bloem told the Press. “I look on the bright side: The bright side is our employees were smart enough, and quick enough, and on it. It took a lot of hard work to figure this out—it was pretty sophisticated.”
No other wrongdoing within the department? Smart and quick enough—six years? Well, I’m going to see what happens at tonight’s council meeting. Please tune in or go to the meeting and let’s see if our Mayor demands accountability for the errors leading to the loss of major taxpayer money.
Stay tuned for Action Alert, Part 2 tomorrow.