OpenCDA

March 5, 2013

The Buck Stops … Where?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 7:57 am

TrustMeIf you believe Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem, Coeur d’Alene City Administrator Wendy Gabriel, Deputy Finance Director Vonnie Jenson [sic],  and others cited in US Attorney Wendy Jo Olson’s Response to Objection to Impact Statements filed for the March 4, 2013, sentencing hearing of convicted former City employee Sheryl Carroll, the aforementioned Mayor, Administrator, and Deputy Finance Director were all victims themselves of Carroll’s larcenous cleverness.

Quoting character Al Borland, comedian Tim Allen’s reserved and always skeptical straight man in the 90’s television series Home Improvement, “I don’t think so, Tim.”

It’s convenient for Bloem, Gabriel, and Jensen to suggest they, too, were deceived.  Perhaps their hope is Coeur d’Alene residents and voters will forget that preventing Carroll’s embezzlement was their duty and responsibility as public officials.  It was a duty shared by City Finance Director Troy Tymesen.  It was also the duty of City Human Resources Director Pam MacDonald to have properly investigated Carroll’s background to determine if there was anything suggesting Carroll was untrustworthy.

After Carroll’s embezzlement lasting nearly a decade came to light, some people pointed the finger of blame solely at the City’s longtime auditors at Magnuson, McHugh & Company, P.A.   But as noted in our December 16, 2012, OpenCdA post titled Trust Staff? 365,000 Good Reasons Why Not!, the Mag-Mac auditing agreement with the City,  approved and accepted by the aforementioned City officials and Council,  clearly states:

You [the Mayor and Council] agree that management [the City government] is responsible for(a ) the design and implementation of programs and controls to prevent and detect fraud, (b) informing us [Magnuson, McHugh] about any fraud or suspected fraud affecting the entity involving management, employees who have significant roles in internal control, or others where the fraud could have a material effect on the financial statements or major federal award programs, and (c) informing us [Magnuson, McHugh] about any allegations of fraud or suspected fraud affecting the entity received in communications from employees, former employees, analysts, regulators, short sellers, or others.

So while Bloem, Gabriel, Jensen, Tymesen, and MacDonald would like the citizens and voters of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to believe that Carroll’s embezzlement was “sophisticated” as if that somehow absolves them from performing their supervisory duties as public administrators,  the fact remains that Carroll was hired even though a reasonably and appropriately thorough background check by MacDonald should have uncovered Carroll’s prior felony conviction for theft.  The fact remains that her superiors in the City of Coeur d’Alene who had a duty to diligently supervise her simply trusted her rather that putting in place the “programs and controls to prevent and detect fraud.”

Sheryl Carroll will be checking into federal prison for 40 months for embezzling approximately $365,000.   Those who testified to the impact of her crimes would like us to believe the buck stopped with Sheryl Carroll.  They would like us to forget their agreement with Magnuson, McHugh & Company, P.A., which clearly shows the buck stopped with them and others in the City administration.

 

ADDENDUM at 4:36 p.m. on March 5:  Here is the press release issued today by the US Attorney for the District of Idaho.

11 Comments

  1. Bill, this is a sham and a disgrace to the public. It is my opinion that everyone in this town is way too closely aligned to defend, prosecute, or investigate objectively a local case of this nature. It probably all went down at Capones over a beer or two and then it ended with a few theatrical performances and a big group hug.

    Comment by Stebbijo — March 5, 2013 @ 8:05 am

  2. I personally hold the Finance Department responsible for submitting billing invoices that were fictitious. Then our Mayor and Council, acting under blind faith, approves payment at their monthly council meetings assuming all accounting is correct. The City is attempting to cover their mistakes with claiming being blind sided.

    Comment by LTR — March 5, 2013 @ 8:36 am

  3. It appeared to me that this morning’s local skewspaper article headlined Former finance employee sentenced tried to deflect exclusive blame on Carroll. While she was unquestionably the principal actor, the City’s failure to design and implement programs and controls to prevent and detect fraud facilitated her criminal conduct. I was extremely disappointed but also completely unsurprised by Assistant US Attorney Traci Whelen’s (attributed) comment that, “Nobody but the defendant created this situation.” Perhaps AUSA Whelen needs to have her butt transferred out of comfortable north Idaho and to the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York where she would be exposed to how real AUSAs (under the direction of US Attorney Preet Bharara) address public corruption.

    Comment by Bill — March 5, 2013 @ 8:53 am

  4. LTR,

    Let’s hope that the City’s Finance Department and the LCDC isn’t doing anything stupid with the millions of dollars being flushed into the McEuen project. Stupid would include letting the person who approves some checks issue them to himself or herself.

    Comment by Bill — March 5, 2013 @ 8:56 am

  5. Bill, they can be stupid here. There is no punishment. Millions instead of thousands might get another year in prison and that’s pushing it.

    I was reading the U.S. District Attorneys response to the defendant’s objection concerning testimony and letters submitted by several people including the Mayor et.al. I believe, she allowed them because she placed blame squarely on the defendant and she believed that the testimony of those who had to work overtime because of the crime and endured tarnished reputations needed to be considered by the judge in order to sentence accordingly. Evidently those who worked with her for years gave insight to the Court while they claim they are also victims of crime. So, there was the dog and pony show. Now they all look like they helped put her behind bars. And, some most likely rightfully so. However, those documents are sealed and there were 10 letters submitted on Carroll’s behalf. So, the judge gave them all weight, it appears. Just because she is going to prison, it does not mean that the case is over-over, Carroll can produce more testimony if need be and the city can sue her civilly. She has to cooperate. But, I am sure Amendola is busy with her release as we speak. I doubt very much if she spends more than a year in prison. This town has too many friends of friends to ever actually prosecute a public corruption case the way it needs to be handled. Anyone that would do so would be run out of town and ruined. It appears that the pre-sentencing report was too lenient in the first place and the message sent to officials is that crime pays in North Idaho. This just sets the tone for future crimes – no big deal here. When she gets out she will probably go to her rat hole of cash and pay up her fines and then move on out on our dime along with a Bon Voyage party.

    It’s all good.

    Comment by Stebbijo — March 5, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  6. For those who are wondering but do not have PACER accounts, the Deft Carroll’s Objection/Response/Reply to Presentence Investigation Report was sealed by the Court. That’s why only the USA’s Response (linked in post) is included here.

    Comment by Bill — March 5, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  7. Thanks Bill – I see that you did include it. However, I don’t understand why so much of this criminal case is sealed.

    Comment by Stebbijo — March 5, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  8. Apparently crime does pay here.
    Only 3 years sentence for stealing $365K ?? 40 months total and you can count on it being reduced for so called ‘good time’. Is that justice?? REally??

    What a good career move for her. I know I can’t make $365K in 3 years time. Heck at about $121K per year for sitting in prison. That’s almost what our city administrative staff makes!!

    And why is it it took 4 months from the guilty plea to the sentencing…AND why does she get to “voluntarily surrender in the next four to six weeks”?? I thought when a person gets sentenced they proceed imeediately to jail from the courtroom. Why does she get to have 4 to 6 weeks to get around to it?? This is just way too fishy. Another example of the different justice system for poeple with connections and those without.

    Comment by chouli — March 5, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

  9. Well, everyone is just fine with the outcome This was a big win and a pat on the back for all government employees for doing such a great job. Here is the latest news release from Stop Fraud.gov And, not one press photo of the criminal. Great coverage. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson: “I commend the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office and employees of the city of Coeur d’Alene for their cooperation and assistance to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

    Comment by Stebbijo — March 5, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

  10. Last night at the Council meeting, Frank Orzell pointed out the flaw of giving Phil Boyd from Welch-Comer, the private engineering firm running the McEuen project, the power to write his own checks. Has the City not learned anything from the recent embezzlement fiasco?

    Comment by mary — March 6, 2013 @ 9:07 am

  11. Nope.

    That was quite the meeting. Frank Orzell offered wonderful advise that will get ignored.

    Comment by Stebbijo — March 6, 2013 @ 10:14 am

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