State AG probing theft of county $s

The state Attorney General's Office and Port Angeles Police Department are investigating the theft of an estimated $617,467 from the Clallam County Treasurer's Office between February 2004 and May 2009.

State Attorney General spokeswoman Janell Guthrie said Monday she couldn't estimate when the investigation might be completed or any charges filed.

"We don't have original criminal jurisdiction but we can take cases referred to us by county prosecutors," she said.

Guthrie said reasons for referring a case might be a potential conflict of interest or unusual size or complexity but she couldn't give the specific reason.

Could top $790K

A special investigation by the Washington State Auditor's Office determined as much as $793,595 dating back to 2003 might have been stolen by a former Treasurer's Office employee.

Only $617,467 can be confirmed because some records are unavailable, stated the report which was released Feb. 23.

The report recommends seeking recovery of the $617,467, investigative costs of $60,067 and $6,000 charged to the county by the bank for the records.

The investigation began after the Clallam County Treasurer's Office reported on May 19, 2009, a "possible misappropriation of public funds" consisting of $1,200 from two real estate excise tax transactions.

Restitution iffy

Real estate excise tax is 1.28 percent of the sales price, which is paid to the state. Cities and counties also can levy up to another one half of 1 percent.

County Treasurer Judy Scott said they are working toward restitution but don't know how much they can recover.

The county is covered by its insurance and they are working on submitting the claim, she said.

Scott said the missing money wasn't noticed sooner because unlike property taxes, the amount of which can be forecast, real estate excise taxes fluctuate with real estate sales.

The suspect employee was hired in January 2001 and became a cashier in January 2003. She was placed on administrative leave before being fired on June 19, 2009.

Reach Brian Gawley at

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