A former superintendent of the Yelm Cemetery District is charged with first-degree theft for allegedly stealing from the district for about 10 years.
Anthony Ward’s charge, filed Friday, follows the release of a state auditor’s report last year that said Ward misused $62,000 in cemetery funds. Ward is accused of depositing cemetery district money into his personal bank account and giving himself unapproved raises, the report states.
Ward, 51, is set to be arraigned Sept. 18 in Thurston County Superior Court. He left his job about a year ago, after the auditor’s report was released, according to a woman who answered the phone at the Cemetery District. She declined further comment.
Ward’s attorney, Ken Valz, said Friday that his client “will be found innocent of all charges once the details are disclosed.”
The Yelm Cemetery District is one of two cemetery districts in Thurston County. It is paid for by revenue from the sale of cemetery lots, cemetery services, taxpayers and private donations. Each cemetery district elects a three-person nonpartisan board of commissioners. The Thurston County treasurer acts as the “bank” for the districts.
According to Ward’s charging documents:
In 2010, Yelm Cemetery recorded revenues of $181,828, with $134,512 coming from property taxes, $3,791 from interest and $43,525 from the sales of products and services, such as plots and charges for burials.
In April 2011, a resident contacted the state auditor with concerns about “a possible conflict of interest,” saying Ward was using cemetery district resources for personal use and was using public money to advertise his personal business. When the auditor inquired with the county treasurer, it learned that Ward “had deposited some of his own personal checks into the cemetery’s account with the Treasurer’s Office.”
The auditor’s office began an investigation.
An employee with the auditor’s office found that Ward kept two sets of books. There were 128 occurrences when the cemetery received no money or only a portion of what was due for products and services, totaling about $41,925 in funds lost.
The auditor also found:
Ward gave himself raises of 0.1 percent in 2009 and 2.5 percent each in 2009-11 that were not authorized by the cemetery board. The overpayments total $1,612.
Between January 2006 and May 2011, Ward paid for $17,520 in employee benefits with district funds rather than personal funds.
He used a district credit card to make purchases, then claimed the items on reimbursement requests, resulting in an overpayment of $1,010.
The auditor reported a total loss of about $62,000 to the cemetery. In charging documents, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office notes that additional irregularities resulted in about $22,000 to $24,000 in additional losses. They weren’t considered fraud because they either were done with the board’s awareness or were later approved by the board.