The former downtown Pasco official who skimmed money to pay personal bills and back child support apologized Tuesday, saying he will use this experience “to influence decisions tomorrow.”
Michael A. Goins seeks a fresh start as he goes to prison for one year for embezzling at least $90,000 over two years, he said.
“I did not live up to the expectations that my position required,” Goins said during sentencing in Franklin County Superior Court. “While this was not my intention from the start, sadly it is the outcome.”
Goins was hired as executive director of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority in July 2013. About six months later, he started dipping into agency funds for personal use, including groceries, utilities at his Richland home and trips to New Jersey to visit his two kids.
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In an interview with Pasco detectives, Goins claimed he intended to replace the money with each paycheck.
However, he “got into quicksand and it got bigger and bigger, and I … wasn’t able to catch it up,” he said in the interview.
Goins typically would have faced up to three months in jail for the theft because of his lack of criminal history. However, the defense and prosecution agreed that an exceptional sentence of a year is more appropriate.
It all came to a head in late 2015 when Goins no longer could delay queries from the IRS about unpaid taxes, and agency board members discovered outstanding bills on numerous accounts.
The downtown association is partially funded by taxpayer dollars. It oversees the Pasco Farmers Market and Pasco Specialty Kitchen, and coordinates events like the Cinco de Mayo celebration and the Fiery Foods Festival.
Goins was fired in December, a couple of weeks after his arrest.
When he pleaded guilty Jan. 5 to first-degree theft with aggravating factors, the plea deal hinged on the embezzlement amount not exceeding $150,000.
On Tuesday, Prosecutor Shawn Sant said a report from the state Auditor’s Office won’t be done until June because of the case’s complexity. The forensic accountants want to be thorough by making sure “to match up the output with the input.”
Sant had been holding off sentencing Goins until getting a clear indication of how much money actually was taken.
But, instead of keeping Goins in the county jail at the expense of taxpayers who already were defrauded by him, Sant said it’s time to send him to a state facility.
Sant warned Goins and the court that if the audit shows the former executive pocketed more than $250,000 — well above what was anticipated — then additional charges will be filed.
“The defendant should know more than anyone else how much was taken,” Sant said.
Sant added that new charges would not fall under double jeopardy because prosecutors can break out each additional action into a separate count.
Defense attorney Daniel Stovern said his client understands that and believes the $150,000 amount already included “a lot of safety room” with the final tally likely to come in well below.
A restitution hearing is set July 12.
I would like to further apologize to my family for the public humiliation that this has caused. I am sorry that I let them down ... I am sorry to my wife and children for failing as a husband and a father. I promise to spend every day making the time up that is lost.
Michael A. Goins
Mike Miller, the agency’s board treasurer and former president, told the Herald the volunteer members decided not to attend the sentencing hearing.
“We didn’t need to say anything. The sentence stands for itself,” Miller said.
The board is still trying to recover from the embezzlement while also working to move forward with promoting downtown Pasco, Miller said.
“We are slowly whittling the debt back down to reasonable numbers, other than the IRS numbers and state numbers,” he said.
The association kicked off its second year of Food Truck Friday on April 1, and on May 7 will celebrate both Cinco de Mayo and the opening of the farmers market. Board members also are working to fill Goins’ former position.
Goins typically would have faced up to three months in jail for the theft because of his lack of criminal history.
However, both Sant and Stovern agreed that an exceptional sentence is more appropriate given the circumstances.
“He recognizes that this is a significant loss,” said Sant, noting the Pasco agency’s ongoing effort to improve the economic condition of start-up businesses in downtown.
Stovern told the court Goins has cancer that needs to be treated.
Goins previously had testicular cancer, and told investigators that doctors initially believed his cancer was back last summer but determined it was something else. He acknowledged praying it was cancer so it would take care of his problems.
Months later, he tried to commit suicide with wine and prescription pills once officials found the discrepancies in the association’s books.
“This is out of character for Mr. Goins. He doesn’t have a long criminal history,” Stovern said. “Hopefully, based on the fact that it is so out of character, we will never see him again in criminal court.”
Goins thanked people who’ve shown him mercy and support throughout the criminal case.
“I would like to further apologize to my family for the public humiliation that this has caused. I am sorry that I let them down,” he said. “… I am sorry to my wife and children for failing as a husband and a father. I promise to spend every day making the time up that is lost.”
Judge Bruce Spanner said he was going along with the recommended sentence “considering the extreme violation of trust that was placed on you.”