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Candidate says treasurer fraud prevention needed

Candidate says treasurer fraud prevention needed

by AMANDA WINTERS

Sequim Gazette

Selinda Barkhuis, a Clallam County senior planner, said it was the shock she felt when she found out $617,000 was stolen from the Clallam County Treasurer's Office over a five-year period that made her decide to run for the office.

"I was appalled to learn of the embezzlement," she said at a Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct. 25.

Barkhuis, a nonpracticing private attorney who also has experience as a real estate agent and H&R Block tax preparer, said the theft continued for so long because of a lack of internal controls under the management of Clallam County Treasurer Judith Scott.

Scott was quick to point out the employee accused of the theft, Catherine Betts, was put on administrative leave as soon as the theft was discovered and fired thereafter. Betts will face a trial in January 2011, Scott said.

The theft started under her predecessor and wasn't found during regular state audits, she said. Since the theft was discovered, new procedures have been

adopted, she said.

"I know what needs to be done," she said.

Scott has worked in the treasurer's office for 27 years including five as treasurer. Scott said Barkhuis has many skills but not the skills to be county treasurer.

"H&R Block won't help her in the treasurer's office," she said.

Scott said her office continuously is looking to streamline processes and find new revenue sources. She wants to continue to look at other investments to increase revenue for the county and to develop new strategies for marketing tax title properties, she said.

Barkhuis said Scott has talked about improving marketing properties for the county for years and hasn't done it yet.

Barkhuis said as treasurer she would do more to market tax title properties and surplus properties online.

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

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