Arlington: Former city employee under investigation for embezzling

ARLINGTON A recent retiree of the city of Arlington staff could be facing embezzlement charges.

An employee of the city's finance department, who retired May 31 of this year, is suspected of skimming funds from benefit packages. City finance staff became suspicious when they found a check with the employee's name, and contacted the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Auditor.

Upon reviewing documents for several weeks, those agencies found evidence that the employee had embezzled more than $750,000 since 2002, and search warrants were issued Aug. 6 for the employee's residence and account at Frontier Bank.

The employee's job had included estimating city budgets for upcoming years, which the employee is suspected of padding to cover the embezzlement. In addition, the employee was in charge of the budget for a robust retirement program for law enforcement officers and firefighters.

The state auditor and county sheriff's office are investigating the employee, who could potentially be charged with identity theft, check alteration and signature forgery, although no charges have yet been filed.

"We are devastated by this," said Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield. "We feel victimized and heartbroken. It's a violation of public trust. Ever since Mayor Margaret Larson came on board, we've really worked to raise the bar."

City Hall was closed at 2 p.m. Aug. 6, to give city employees an opportunity to "begin the healing process" and start developing a recovery strategy.

The city has voluntarily submitted to annual audits since 1990, even though the state only required alternate-year audits for a city of its size. These audits have not yielded significant findings in the past. No others are implicated in this ongoing investigation.

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