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ENUMCLAW: Auditor finds problems with police property room; longtime officer terminated

Editor's note: this story deals with an examination of the Enumclaw Police Department and, specifically, its property room. The full report by the State Auditor's Office can be found at www.sao.wa.gov/EN/Reports/Pages/default.aspx. There are two Enumclaw audits located under the "Reports Update" tab.

Questions surrounding the Enumclaw Police Department's property room led to a city-requested investigation by the state auditor's office and apparently resulted in the firing of a longtime police officer.

Lt. Eric Sortland was issued a letter of termination effective Oct. 31, according to City Administrator Mike Thomas.

Thomas would not state directly that Sortland was fired due to the property room issues, but acknowledged that one of Sortland's duties was oversight of the property room.Thomas hinted there were additional concerns, but would not go into details.

"There were other issues the city had with his employment," is all Thomas would say about Sortland's release.

Sortland, who had been with the department more than 25 years, has appealed his termination and has a case pending with the city's Civil Service Commission.

Enumclaw, like all cities, receives a thorough examination every year by the state auditor's office. Thomas said city administration had uncovered some concerns about the property room and asked the auditor to take a closer look.

The Auditor's Office often makes suggestions to cities, but significant items are listed as "findings" and it is expected cities will take corrective measures.

In this case, the auditor's report stated, "…we identified a condition significant enough to report as a finding: The City of Enumclaw Police Department does not have adequate controls to safeguard property and funds held in its custody."

Included in the auditor's report were the following:

  • The auditor could not determine when the last inventory of the property room had been done.
  • It could not be verified whether two guns had been destroyed, due to inadequate documentation.
  • The police department could not provide current contracts with dealers through which it trades or sells property.
  • The department had not destroyed illegal drugs in the property room since at least 2005.
  • A $2,000 petty cash fund lacked proper oversight. The report noted one officer kept $500 of the fund in his wallet; at the time of the inspection, he had just $307 and no record of how the balance was spent.

The remainder of the $2,000 fund is kept in a locked box in a locked cabinet. On the day of the audit, the box could not be found; when it turned up several days later, it contained $1,800. Combined with the $500 an officer was supposed to have, the petty cash fund held more than was authorized.

The auditor's office offered eight recommendations. All dealt with tightening the police department procedures and ensuring management oversight.

The city provided written answers to each of the auditor's concerns, detailing how the problems were to be resolved. In some cases, it was stated a perceived problem did not exist. For example, the city noted that illegal drugs had been destroyed in November 2006 and December 2010.

With regard to the money kept in an officer's wallet and the sum that could not be accounted for, it was found to be the result of bookkeeping procedures.

Upon completion of the audit, the balance was found to be in order.

Thomas said everything in the property room has been accounted for and "the city has taken a number of steps to make sure our policies and procedures are current."

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