Investigation comes to shameful end

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2005

It was an embarrassing moment for city management Tuesday when Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson announced the end of the criminal investigation phase of the supposedly missing money from the department of public utilities.

Ferguson said, in effect, that accounting – what little there was of it – was so atrocious that investigators cannot ascertain who or if anyone stole money or even if any money was missing.

While much of the media focus has been on the low-level employees who lost their jobs over cashing checks from the cash drawer and dropping in IOUs, the larger issue for the city and the taxpayers is restoring public confidence.

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Citizens are right to expect and demand that public servants do a better job handling money.

Officials say that procedures have been instituted in the wake of the affair to correct the situation. To be effective, these measures would need to include requiring a daily cash drawer reconciliation, limiting the amount of cash that can be on hand at any one time, making daily deposits and separating mail and cash handling responsibilities.

But it’s also going to require that somebody pay attention, to make sure that every penny is properly accounted for every day.

The entire situation has been tragic. Whether rightly or wrongly, seven people lost their jobs.

Those who maintain the city is not properly watching out for our tax dollars were handed a good bit of ammunition.

Let’s hope public utilities is now on the right track.

– AP