A report from the Washington State Auditor’s Office detailed the misplacement of approximately $14,000 worth of publicly funded assets at the Grant County Public Utility District No. 2 Security Department.
The report, released June 8, addressed that district staff noticed certain assets were missing during an inventory check in January of 2020. The missing assets totaled a reported value of $13,787 and was determined to be a military grade ballistic helmet, advanced target laser and night vision goggles.
“At one time, Grant PUD security management was taking steps to equip our own personnel to respond directly to tactical, police-type situations on Grant PUD property. After a change in security management and a risk assessment, we instead decided to partner with local law enforcement agencies and rely on their expertise,” the PUD stated.
An internal investigation was opened and a police report filed with the Ephrata Police Department. Through the internal investigation, it was determined that the assets went missing sometime between Jan. 25, 2018 and June 14, 2018, nearly two years prior to the discovery of the items missing.
The report outlined that the police investigation determined that the missing assets were in the possession of a former security supervisor who had left employment with the District on Jan. 25, 2018. During the police interview with the former security supervisor on Jan. 27, 2020, the former security supervisor admitted to having the missing items in his possession and using them “personally for training where he now lived, which is a different state.” The report stated that the former security supervisor returned the missing items to the Ephrata Police Department in March of 2020.
The district had an annual inventory process but the security department did not complete the inventory process for 2018 and 2019, according to the report. “As the State Auditor’s report says, we recovered all the missing gear and have since greatly improved our internal auditing to keep track of ‘small and attractive’ assets,” the PUD said.
The report also states that the Washington State Auditor’s Office was notified of the possible misuse of public funds July 22, 2020, after the investigation had already been wrapped up and the missing items returned. The PUD states that they notified the auditor’s office shortly after the items were discovered missing but did not file the official report until July.
The State Auditor’s Office did not release its findings until June 8, 2021, nearly a year after the report was made.
Washington RCW 43.09.185 regarding reporting to the state auditor’s office the loss of public funds states that: “State agencies and local governments shall immediately report to the state auditor’s office known or suspected loss of public funds or assets or other illegal activity.”
The auditor’s office report stated that they were referring the case to the prosecutor’s office for any further action they would see fit and recommended the district seek recovery of the cost of the investigation which was $1,260.
According to the Ephrata Police Department, the felony charge of theft in the first degree was not pursued against the former security supervisor by Grant County prosecutors. Grant County prosecutors have not yet responded for comment.
The Post-Register will follow up as more information becomes available.