Franklin County inventory policies being looked at in wake of embezzlement charges

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldMarch 15, 2012 

Franklin County officials are delving into the county's inventory policies in the wake of a former Franklin County manager being suspected of embezzling almost $2 million from the county in the past decade.

Commissioners discussed Wednesday how inventory for the Information Services Department should be handled as part of a wider look at county policies.

At the moment, individual county departments buy some of their own technology, or enter into contracts for items such as copiers. But Kevin Scott, Information Services director, said when vendors have questions or issues, they call his department, not the county department using the equipment.

Commission Chairman Brad Peck suggested that Information Services should be in charge of inventory for everything connected to the county's network or servers. Those items also should be cleared through Information Services before they are bought, he said.

County Auditor Matt Beaton will continue to work on a policy. No formal action was taken on the topic.

County Administrator Fred Bowen started going through the county's policies and procedures about two years ago as time permitted, but Peck said officials have accelerated the process after recent events.

Dennis Huston, the county's former Public Works accounting and administrative director, is suspected of embezzling about $1.78 million using a defunct Spokane company.

County invoices requested by the Herald show that checks were sent to Critzer Equipment for parts supposedly bought for Public Works vehicles as recently as January, even though the company closed in 2001.

The allegations came to light in early February while the county auditor's office was doing a vendor check.

Huston is not charged with a crime. He initially was arrested but then released while county and state officials investigate the theft allegations.

Peck told the Herald earlier that the alleged embezzlement may have been discovered sooner if a better inventory process was in place.

Inventory has not gotten as much attention as it should have in the past two to three decades, Peck said Wednesday.

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