Just checks, no balances
From today's Palm Beach Post-
WEST PALM BEACH — More than $1.5 million in bed-tax money and membership dues was embezzled from the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau without anyone noticing, officials admitted Wednesday.
Over the past three years, former bureau Controller Donna M. Duffer allegedly forged signatures on about 200 checks she wrote to herself to finance her gambling problem, top bureau employees told a stunned executive committee.
Several outraged committee members complained they had been kept in the dark and not given important details about the theft. How, they wanted to know, could so much be missing without anyone spotting a problem?
Warren "Mac" McLaughlin, the bureau's CEO and president, also drew fire for going on a business trip to Europe while accountants were scrambling to figure out how much had been stolen.
As a result of the alleged embezzlement:
• Two bureau employees have been laid off; there's no money to pay them.
• The bureau owes the Internal Revenue Service $750,000 in taxes that were withheld from employee paychecks but never given to the federal government.
• Two non-bed-tax bank accounts are nearly empty.
"I just don't understand how somebody takes all that money and nobody notices it's missing," Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus said. "I think we are going to have to step back and look at everything they are doing over there. Why weren't there requirements in place?"
Duffer was fired Oct. 23, after bureau officials say she admitted to forging signatures on at least four checks.
The theft was discovered by bank officials.
West Palm Beach police are investigating, but no charges have been filed, spokesman Ted White said.
In all, Duffer is accused of stealing $1.55 million from the bureau since June 2003.
This kind of financial mismanagement is seen in both government and private sector all the time. People just refuse to double check other people's work when its essential for them to do so. TFM just calls it plain stupidity or negligence. Commissioner Marcus should see that the officials responsible for this debacle are fired. Nothing less will satisfy Palm Beach County taxpayers.
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