An environmental specialist with the state Department of Ecology is accused of stealing nearly $17,000 from an employee celebration fund.
Mary N. Lynum, 48, was arrested Feb. 10 and charged with first-degree theft. The Spanaway woman has no prior criminal history, and has pleaded not guilty to the charge, according to court documents. A trial is scheduled the week of May 23.
Lynum was in charge of a voluntary Ecology Social Fund that paid for employee celebrations, such as birthdays and retirements. The state had authorized a payroll deduction for employees who wanted to participate.
According to court documents, 220 employees contributed to the fund. In December, employees raised concerns about the fund’s management and the lack of information disclosed by Lynum.
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Records indicate Lynum was the only employee who had access to the account. She provided excuses when asked for a bank statement, according to court documents. An $80 check written on the account to reimburse an employee was returned for insufficient funds.
In a meeting with a fiscal manager at the department, Lynum said she had used money in the account for personal expenses and said she intended to pay back the money, according to documents.
An investigation revealed Lynum took more than $17,000 from the account between October 2015 and February.
During an interview with Lacey police, Lynum said she used the money to pay medical bills for her disabled daughter. Lynum said her wages were being garnished and that she got desperate.
Lynum, a 20-year employee at the department, has been “removed from the office and placed on home assignment,” said Dustin Terpening, senior communications manager.
The department is conducting an investigation to determine whether Lynum will face disciplinary action or termination of employment, Terpening said. Terpening noted that the money was stolen from employees, not from the Department of Ecology.
“It was a voluntary fund that employees contributed to,” he said.