New name, similar problem - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

New name, similar problem

Records show city theft suspect had stolen before

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Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene finance employee fired for allegedly embezzling city funds had been convicted for stealing an Oregon company's money years ago.

Sheryl Lynn Carroll, 51 - who was fired July 24 after she failed to show up for a personnel meeting to discuss allegations she transferred city money into her personal accounts - pleaded guilty to first-degree theft March 21, 1983, in Deschutes County for stealing from Everett Turner Realtors, the real estate office where she worked in Bend, Ore.

"It was difficult for me," said Everett Turner when he was reached by The Press this week. Turner had hired Carroll in 1980 and caught her stealing in December 1982. "We trusted her. She was like a member of the family. The whole office, 14 people, and she stole from every single one of them."

According to Deschutes County court records, as part of her guilty plea, two counts of forgery were dismissed against Carroll, who had the last name Anderson at the time.

Carroll, 22 at the time, forged Turner's signature on company checks in amounts greater than $200 for her own financial benefit.

She was sentenced to five months in county jail, ordered to pay $8,950 in restitution, and put on five years probation for the felony offense.

"She could write my signature better than I could," said Turner, who discovered more financial irregularities in his real estate office after the court case was settled. He now estimates he lost upwards of $20,000. "She took everything that wasn't nailed down."

Carroll has not returned several phone messages and a text from The Press.

Sheryl Anderson became Sheryl Carroll after she married Ronald G. Carroll in November 1983, according to a copy of their marriage certificate in Chelan County, Wash. The license shows the bride and groom were from Bend, Ore.

The Carrolls divorced in Kootenai County in 1999, and divorce decree records in Kootenai County's 1st District Court show that Sheryl Carroll was allowed to use her maiden name Anderson, if she chose.

Divorce records also show that Carroll was working for Joe Clark Certified Public Accounting as well as "doing the books" for Auto Exchange at the time. The Press was unable to determine if those companies still exist in Kootenai County.

The city has never confirmed Carroll is the finance employee suspected of embezzling city money - officials say "thousands" of dollars are missing - but city records show Carroll is the only finance employee who has left the department recently.

By its own policy, the city cannot comment on personnel issues, but City Administrator Wendy Gabriel said Thursday the city would "absolutely not" have hired Carroll Oct. 17, 2002, had the city known about any felony convictions dealing with money.

"This city was not aware of any prior issues or felonies when we hired her," Gabriel said.

For years, city employment applications have queried applicants: "Have you been convicted of a felony or served time in prison during the last seven years?"

Asked last week by The Press why the application form specifies seven years, the city's legal and human resource departments said they weren't sure. Applications as far back as the 1990s specify seven years.

After checking what other governmental entities ask, the city then changed its applications last week, dropping the seven-year specification.

"There's no reason we can come up with that would restrict it for seven years. It may have been something that came up internally way back in the early '90s," said Pam McDonald, HR director. "Why put it on there if we don't even know why it was restricted in the first place?"

The application also states that if an applicant affirms that he or she has been convicted of a felony, it would not automatically disqualify the applicant from the position.

Weighing felony conviction when judging an applicant is done on a case by case basis, McDonald said. If the felony is for a crime that directly affects the applied-for position, it would be a major red flag, she said.

Both City Attorney Mike Gridley and McDonald - in a hypothetical example of what felony would likely disqualify an applicant for which department - used a financial crime for a finance applicant.

"If you have a felony that is related to money, or some sort of accounting activity, we're going to consider that," McDonald said.

The city does background checks on some positions, but not all, officials said.

HR does reference checks related to employment and interview information, but FBI criminal background checks are done for specific positions such as police officers and parks positions that require the person to access certain facilities, like the police department, and recreation employees who work with children. On all new hires, the city also checks the Idaho repository website that provides court data, but that site is restricted to Idaho records only.

Gabriel said Thursday that in light of the embezzlement case, all finance department positions will be added to the city's FBI background checks.

City officials aren't sure how the recent embezzlement will affect other policies or procedures.

Finance Director Troy Tymesen said in an email he could not answer anything specific on the current embezzlement case, including whether any different safeguard practices will go in.

"There is an ongoing investigation into the transactions in question and I am not providing details at this time," Tymesen wrote, adding that the annual audit will continue to be conducted by a certified public accounting firm. He said the finance department "is always seeking to improve and install the best controls available to the accounting practices at the city."

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation, and as of Thursday no arrests had been made. It couldn't comment on the investigation, but told The Press in previous interviews it would issue a press release if an arrest is made.

The amount Carroll is suspected of stealing hasn't been calculated, as financial reports from previous years are being scrutinized. The financial irregularities were discovered when Carroll, who worked with employee payroll, was away on vacation.

Turner, who is still involved in real estate in Bend, said he also discovered the missing money when Carroll, then Anderson, was away on vacation.

"The file popped open, and there was a financial statement that looked like she made the payment," Turner said, on that day he took over Carroll's duties in 1982. "She made it, but to her."

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20 comments:

  • Cdajon posted at 11:17 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Cdajon Posts: 390

    I think Troy the city finance director should make a public statement about what happened and offer a good reason it wasn't known earlier. He would probably minimize it and move on to a different topic..true politician ..not public servants. All eyes are on the city and it's people to perform to the set standards and possibly even higher. I don't think you all will enjoy working under a microscope..but you all earned it. One more thing..who are the two city employees in the brand new gold dodge ram I see driving down Sherman nearly every morning around 7:15. They don't work outside..they do drive around alot though.

     
  • Cdajon posted at 10:55 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Cdajon Posts: 390

    I think the problem is that the director and his staff are not qualified to do this Job. He may qualify for a small town job..like spirit lake..but not coeur d alene. We deserve better and we should have it now. Out with Troy.

     
  • Cdajon posted at 10:50 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Cdajon Posts: 390

    I think the problem is that the director and his staff are not qualified to do this Job. He may qualify for a small town job..like spirit lake..but not coeur d alene. We deserve better and we should have it now. Out with Troy.

     
  • LTRLTR posted at 4:59 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    The City of Cda. has used the same auditors for many years. LCDC, our local urban renewal agency also uses the same auditor service. The auditor makes sure the city is using specific standards as required by law and the city can say we comply. This work does not go out to bid resulting in no competition for the best service.

    Budget responsibility falls on the City Finance Director' shoulders. The payroll employee works in Finance. The payroll employee has access to every employees social security number, wages earned, and taxes withheld. It is common sense that for someone to be hired in a payroll position, a through investigation is done on the person, prior to being hired.

    So did the City Finance Director do his job?

    Did the Human Resource Director do her job?

     
  • Rogue Cop posted at 1:17 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2312

    Not too late for that enema I suggested a while back...the City needs to jettison, Tymesen, Gridley, McDonald, and a few other Department heads. Won't happen though. They're all proponents of McEuen.

     
  • CHSdad posted at 1:01 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    CHSdad Posts: 369

    A quick google search shows that it is common to use 7 years when conducting a background check. I'm not entirely sure why, but something to do with the equal opportunities commission maybe? The HR director really should know something about this.

     
  • Mark on the Park posted at 12:19 pm on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Mark on the Park Posts: 471

    '"There's no reason we can come up with that would restrict it for seven years. It may have been something that came up internally way back in the early '90s," said Pam McDonald, HR director. "Why put it on there if we don't even know why it was restricted in the first place?"'

    Like they wanted to hire someone who committed a felony eight years earlier?

     
  • CHSdad posted at 9:48 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    CHSdad Posts: 369

    There seems to be an assumption that the current people in charge were also in charge when Carroll was first employed 10 years ago. Was that actually the case? On the other hand, the claim that things are done because that's the way they have always been done is simply not good enough. It means that high salaries do not necessarily get high quality staff. Why on earth would you want to retain people who don't actively work to ensure best practice?

     
  • WilliamWMiller posted at 9:19 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    WilliamWMiller Posts: 106

    Again we have a prime example of what over paid, over praised, city workers can accomplish. The HR boss should be fired for not getting a background check conducted. It is harder getting a job at jiffy stop. CDA employees are so wrapped up in politics that common sense and doing their job is secondary.

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 9:18 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Mary Souza Posts: 790

    Troy Tymeson, Finance Director, pulls out the smoke and mirrors comment about an audit. Do NOT be fooled by that. They have an audit by the same accounting firm every single year. They were having it the whole time this embezzlement was going on, but the audit did not catch it...why?...because auditors only look at the accounts and the numbers they are given at the outset, then the auditors check to make sure those given numbers are correct. That's all. They do not delve into everything and check for problems. That's called a forensic audit. It's much more expensive. I think it's time for one.

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 9:16 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Mary Souza Posts: 790

    Wow. Just wow. Incompetence has been clearly defined. The city does FBI background checks on parks employees but not people who work directly with the taxpayers' money? They checked only Idaho state legal records?

    Did they contact any of her former employers? Did they ask why there were time gaps in her resume? (I'm assuming she didn't list the job where she was caught and convicted of felony embezzlement)

    And Pam McDonald, Director of Human Resources, doesn't know why her department's application asks only for felony information from the last 7 years? Not a good day for the city. Heads should roll.

     
  • lexacon posted at 8:36 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    lexacon Posts: 80

    "Sounds like its time for a new CPA firm and a new finance mgr, that will improve and install BETTER acctg. practices."

    Perhaps, now that they are going to do a forensic audit, they will have a better hold on their books! It could get awfully frightening!

     
  • I Carry posted at 7:55 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    I Carry Posts: 433

    A problem with background checks arises when people change names, like when they marry. There seems to be a gap somewhere there. Back when, a person got a Soc Sec card but it wasn't to be used for I D. The card stays the same for each person, no matter what their name is. That system is good enough to be used by MediCare. Possibly, I D checks could focus more on the Soc Sec number then the person's name.
    It does sound stupid when a Mad Cow can be traced back to where ever it came from, but a felon drops out of the system. I don't think the city would have hired a felon if they knew it just because of the "egg on yer face" if something went wrong.

     
  • Joseph Jr posted at 7:44 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Joseph Jr Posts: 512

    Try Lexus Nexxus (I think that's the spelling).

    Or as the CDA PRESS did, go into Washington State Records online, something the CDA PRESS editor failed to have the write do when researching the RSO/Fence Post vandalism victim...the one who according to the sex offender site, has a history of using aliases...and still doesn't go by his real name.

    Love to know "who" this woman used as a reference(s) on her job application. Now days, employers are actually doing some resposible research regarding references. Hello! Check those out as well!

     
  • Cdajon posted at 7:33 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Cdajon Posts: 390

    Give it time and more bad news will emerge from this department. Any comments department heads? Lets wait and see.

     
  • ancientemplar posted at 7:23 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1176

    Tymesen wrote, adding that the annual audit will continue to be conducted by a certified public accounting firm. He said the finance department "is always seeking to improve and install the best controls available to the accounting practices at the city."

    Sounds like its time for a new CPA firm and a new finance mgr, that will improve and install BETTER acctg. practices.

     
  • Cdajon posted at 7:15 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    Cdajon Posts: 390

    Way to go finance director. You hired a convicted embezzler to cut the checks for the city. What other gigantic errors have you made that haven't yet surfaced? How about a raise..would that make it better. Give me break..get some competant people in there.

     
  • voxpop posted at 6:48 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Hopefully the city has now done background checks on all finance employees. Wasn't it Lincoln who said, "Fool me once, shame on you..." Oh wait, this is the second time, at least.

     
  • LMYCDA posted at 6:34 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    LMYCDA Posts: 1843

    Does our city and county not do criminal background checks before hiring? Especially in the FINANCE Department!! What an embarassment for the city. When will they (City) confirm who this person is (even thought we think we know) and when will they (City) tell the citizens just how much money this person STOLE fromt the citizens of Coeur d'Alene?

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:31 am on Fri, Aug 3, 2012.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Like they are the ONLY crooked one involved with the city. HA HA Thanks for the laugh.

     
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