The State Auditor’s Office says the city of Gig Harbor needs to do a better job tracking taxpayer property, including small city equipment that could easily be stolen and larger assets such as buildings and cars.
The finding comes several months after a city employee was charged, prosecuted and fired for stealing a chainsaw, a weed whacker and other maintenance tools and taking them to three area pawn shops to exchange them for money.
During their regular accountability audit of Gig Harbor’s operations for 2013, state investigators made a point to look more closely at how the public works department keeps track of small equipment in light of that theft incident, said City Manager Ron Williams.
“They toured the Public Works shop to see if our listing of small and attractive assets was up to date and accurate,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was not up to date.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Small and attractive assets include items such as the the roadside equipment crews use when responding to emergencies or performing general maintenance of city property.
The audit also looked at the city’s larger assets and determined it needed to do a better job of updating its list when new items are purchased or old items are sold as surplus.
Despite the auditor finding fault with the inventory of city equipment, Williams said the city’s list was sufficient to prosecute the former employee on theft charges. A supervisor noticed some equipment was missing and started asking questions.
“When the city found out about the theft, the police department went to the city finance department and looked at our inventory record. It was those records that became the foundation for the prosecution,” Williams said.
Former city employee Andrew Settle was charged in April with first-degree trafficking in stolen property and second-degree theft. He pleaded guilty to both charges, admitting to stealing seven city-owned tools including a chainsaw, generator, hedge trimmer and weed whacker. The value of items taken totaled close to $4,000.
Settle was sentenced to 30 days in jail for each count.
In its review of the Public Works inventory this year, the auditor found four items missing, valued at about $1,200. The audit also found six items that were either not included on an inventory list, should have been removed from the list or were incorrectly identified.
It also found discrepancies with four items totaling about $11,000. In that instance, there were items that should have been sold as surplus or disposed of, or items that weren’t properly identified with a tag, as required.
The audit also found an almost $1.5 million discrepancy between the actual value of larger capital assets such as buildings, and its listing of those properties.
In a release, the city explained this second finding by saying it didn’t update its current list of assets and described the $1.5 million discrepancy as “a very small portion” of the city’s total assets.
In its report issued Monday, the auditor’s office said the city needs to do more to protect property.
Williams said work is already underway to address the concerns. That includes ensuring inventory lists are kept up to date and tools are properly marked with tags.
“We have a new public works superintendent out there and he’s taking it upon himself to analyze the systems to make sure everything gets accounted for,” Williams said.