School custodian took $10,400 in false OT pay, audit finds

LYNNWOOD — A former custodian at Alderwood Middle School collected more than $10,400 in false overtime pay in a five-year period — and possibly had been bilking the Edmonds School District for 10 years before that.

The district plans to seek repayment from the fired custodian as well as a lead custodian at the same school, who allegedly got in on the scam last summer to the tune of $546. A state auditor’s report released Monday detailed the dollar figures.

“It is disappointing that any employee steals public funds,” Superintendent Nick Brossoit said in a statement to The Herald. “We have taken action to address the theft and put in system safeguards to prevent this from happening going forward. We will be seeking repayment to the district from the former employees.”

The district was made aware of the situation in October and contacted the state auditor to help in the investigation. The custodians were fired in November.

“We acted as quickly as we could once we were aware of the situation,” district spokeswoman DJ Jakala said.

Crunching the numbers took months. The situation was complicated by a payroll system the district adopted in 2008. As a result, the auditor’s report only goes back that far, even though one of the custodians allegedly told investigators she had been doing this since starting employment in Edmonds in 1998. The auditor said she was paid about $10,439.79 in unearned overtime from 2008 to 2013.

In all, the lead custodian received his unearned overtime during July and August 2013.

The State Auditor’s Office recommended the district seek recovery of the money. The case is also expected to be referred to the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The lead custodian also works part-time for the Mukilteo School District at Picnic Point Elementary School. His position there is not authorized for overtime, said Andy Muntz, a spokesman for the district.

In addition, the Mukilteo district uses electronic timesheets that custodians clock in and out of when they are at work. “They can’t go in after the fact to fill in a timesheet … It makes it really hard for somebody to falsify a timesheet,” Muntz said. Supervisors also review and approve hours.

The Edmonds School District has since extended a similar time-reporting system it uses to include overtime reporting. Supervisors compare overtime slips to time submitted to the electronic system. In addition, principals have been asked to be aware of when custodians are working at their buildings.

The case comes on the heels of separate auditor’s reports in the past year about two former food service workers who were paid $10,287 for preparing meals that were never served to children. In that case, the district paid back the money to the federal government, the source of the funding. Increased monitoring of the federal meals program also was put in place.

“We believe the processes put into place will allow the district to more adequately monitor employees’ time,” Jakala said of the latest case.

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