Theft of $20,000 from PUD safe remains a mystery

EVERETT — More than $20,000 belonging to Snohomish County Public Utility District ratepayers has turned up missing from a safe kept at the utility’s Paine Field-based operations center.

The theft occurred in late 2010, according to a fraud investigation report state auditors released Tuesday.

“What’s interesting about this case is nobody could figure out who did it,” said Mindy Chambers, a state auditor’s office spokeswoman.

Neither the PUD nor the Everett Police Department could determine who pilfered the cash. Their review included examining security videos and checking records for electronic access to the building, as well as searching the safe for evidence.

The $21,000 constituted the district’s emergency fund. It is tapped to provide cash advances to line crews so they can buy meals during major storms. Roughly 150 workers are eligible for the cash advances.

The safe was under an employee’s desk in an office cubicle. That gave many employees, contractors and others access to the area. Still, only three workers had the safe combination, officials said. There was no direct video surveillance of the area around the safe.

More than 400 people work at the operations center.

“This is kind of a unique situation,” Chambers said. “It’s a lot of money in an unsecured safe.”

Since the theft, the PUD has made changes to avoid a similar loss in the future.

The utility bought a new safe with an electronic keypad. That allows them to change the combination as needed. Only two people at the PUD will be told the combination.

The PUD also has moved the safe to a senior manager’s office, which is locked when he’s gone. Employees must use identification badges to get access to the area.

The stolen money was kept in $20 bills in a metal box within the safe, PUD assistant general manager of finance Glenn McPherson said.

The safe also contained credit cards, which were not taken, McPherson said.

The theft was discovered Nov. 16, 2010 as a storm approached. McPherson said there was a lengthy internal investigation to try to determine who took the money.

“They looked at unusual access requests to try to see if we could isolate an individual,” he said.

Investigators found employees had legitimate reasons that could be documented when they entered the building in off hours, he said.

Insurance didn’t cover the lost money.

“It was below our deductible,” McPherson said.

The PUD also received a clean audit for its day-to-day operations in a separate report released Thursday.

The district’s electric system serves about 320,000 customers in a service area of 2,200 square miles in Snohomish County and Camano Island in Island County. The district had operating revenue of about $573 million in 2010.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446,

More in Local News

Man suspected of robbing Rite Aids

Mill Creek police released a sketch Monday evening of the suspect.

Police looking for Lynnwood bank robber

The robber did not flash a weapon to the teller at a U.S. Bank.

Here’s how much property taxes will rise to pay for schools

The owner of a $350,000 home is looking at a property-tax hike of nearly $300 this year.

Everett man accused of causing his baby’s brain damage

He told police he shook his son to get him to stop crying, and the boy slipped out of his hands.

At one point she dropped out; now she’s graduation-bound

Anita Bradford-Diaz has had her share of setbacks, but they only seem to increase her motivation.

Employee threats caused lockdown at Arlington elementary

Arlington Police said all students and staff were.

Residents are helping turn Casino Road in a new direction

An initiative backed by a $700,000 grant goes to the community for solutions to the area’s challenges.

With an immigrant’s help, kids reach out to Filipino children

Marysville students drew and sent portraits. Thanks to a video, they got to see the reaction.

Live in Edmonds? Hate speeders?

Edmonds has $35,000 to address local residents’ concerns about speeding in their… Continue reading

Most Read