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Audits: Pierce County manager misused $62,000 raised for homeless veterans

A new report from the state auditor’s office suggests Clyde Drury III may have begun misusing his office well before Pierce County leaders realized when they fired him last year.
A new report from the state auditor’s office suggests Clyde Drury III may have begun misusing his office well before Pierce County leaders realized when they fired him last year. Tacoma

A former Pierce County employee who misspent tens of thousands of dollars that had been collected to help poor veterans may face criminal charges in Thurston County Superior Court, and he may be compelled to repay some of the money.

Clyde Drury III faces the additional scrutiny over his mismanagement of the Pierce County Veterans Bureau because a new report from the state auditor’s office suggests he may have begun misusing his office well before Pierce County leaders realized when they fired him last year.

Allegations then said he directed $24,000 to a friend, kept gift cards donated to help veterans and steered government spending to his wife’s business.

The firing followed a Pierce County investigation that concluded Drury had misused $36,600 from December 2014 through April 2015.

Now a state audit has found another $26,008 in questionable spending dating back to January 2014. The new report urges Pierce County to try to recover some of the money, as well as to bill him for the $3,582 the state spent on its investigation.

Pierce County referred the case in April to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office. A deputy prosecutor is reviewing the investigations, said Anne Larsen, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.

Pierce County spokeswoman Libby Catalanich said the decision of whether to try to recover money from Drury rests with the Thurston County office.

$62,608 Amount of money collected for poor veterans that a Pierce County employee reportedly spent on friends and himself

Drury, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant, acknowledged to a county investigator last year that he allowed the questionable spending that apparently benefited his friend and family members. He wrote that he was grieving over his mother’s death and not paying proper attention to his work.

“I was dysfunctional during that time,” he told the investigator.

During Drury’s tenure, the veterans bureau managed an annual budget of up to about $800,000 with little oversight from other county executives. The money came from a special property tax earmarked for veterans programs.

After Drury’s ouster, Pierce County sought to provide better administrative oversight to the Veterans Bureau by putting it under the leadership of a different department.

The bureau’s three employees now report to the county’s Community Connections department, which offers services to low-income families.

“That gives some opportunities for co-located services and referrals,” Catalinich said.

The county has not filled Drury’s management position. Drury’s salary in 2015 was $82,000.

The fact that you personally benefited from funds that were designated to support our nation’s veterans is truly deplorable and shameful.

Pierce County attorney Al Rose in a June 2015 letter firing Clyde Drury

The 2015 audit from Pierce County showed Drury hand-delivered four $6,000 checks to a friend who claimed he was providing housing to homeless veterans. Drury did not check whether the money was actually helping veterans. He claimed he a had a “handshake deal” with county Executive Pat McCarthy and county executive attorney Al Rose to make deals as he saw fit.

Rose last year wrote the letter firing Drury, calling Drury’s actions “among the most appalling I have ever encountered.”

Drury is being represented by defense attorney Michael Stewart. Stewart said he would comment after a potential criminal case against Drury is resolved.

The county audit also found that Drury received $6,800 in gift cards for veterans but could not show that he gave them to anyone. The report found that he gave a car donated to the veterans bureau to his stepson, and that he cut a $6,000 check to a consignment store where his wife worked.

The new report from the state auditor’s office found a similar pattern, with Drury sending money to programs that ostensibly provided services to veterans but failing to provide documentation that would prove taxpayer resources actually helped people in need.

It cited him for spending $22,000 on counseling for incarcerated veterans without showing any invoices for services. Another $2,000 went to a group that claimed to make quilts for wounded veterans. The rest of the reportedly misused money came in the form of gift cards and questionable travel expenses.

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