Edmonds school food workers’ scam grows costlier

EDMONDS — A state auditor’s report released Monday shows that two former food service workers were paid $10,287 for preparing meals that were never served to children. The figure adds greatly to what Edmonds School District staff reported about the scam last year.

In all, the two employees prepared 5,276 bogus meals, earning $14,774.75 in federally subsidized pay they didn’t deserve between September 2011 and December 2012, when they were finally caught. The employees resigned before they could be fired, legal action was ruled out, and the district has been on the hook for paying the federal government back the money.

An auditor’s report released in June 2013 detailed the school district’s initial findings. That earlier report showed the two workers billed for 1,569 meals that were never served, earning $4,487.75 in extra pay over the 2011-12 school year.

With no one catching on, the employees apparently became more brazen. In less than four months as the 2012-13 school year got under way, the pair more than doubled their take of the entire previous year.

“They ramped it up,” district spokeswoman DJ Jakala said.

The scam was pegged to a federally subsidized meals program that aims to ensure low-income children get enough to eat.

The district paid back the $4,487.75 for the 2011-12 school year by having the same amount subtracted from this year’s federal school meals funding. It likely will pay back the $10,287 bill in the same way.

Food service programs are self-funding. In Edmonds, no general education dollars are used for the program, and that won’t change with the added hit to revenue, Jakala said.

Instead, Food Services Director Barbara Lloyd will tap into “rainy day” funds in her budget that normally pay to replace pricey equipment. Some of those purchases would likely now be delayed, but meal service will not be affected.

“Kids aren’t being harmed by the lost federal income,” Jakala said.

The school district also has drastically increased its monitoring of the program. Staff now conduct random daily checks of cashier transactions and random weekly checks of meal records of absent students.

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