Pittsburgh controller urges city to handle cash better
Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb on Thursday reiterated his call for better cash-management practices across city departments, saying a cashier in the city police records room never should have had the opportunity to steal $17,140 in cash and allow checks to pile up.
The city has not identified the civilian employee, who had been fired by the time officials disclosed the theft in December. The case remains under investigation and no charges yet have been filed, police bureau spokeswoman Diane Richard said.
In December, when he began an audit at the request of the police, Mr. Lamb said simple oversights gave the employee the opportunity to steal. In a formal report Thursday, Mr. Lamb again made the case for what he called common-sense safeguards.
For example, he said, city officials erred by allowing one cashier to collect money, prepare deposit slips and take money to the bank. He said splitting those duties among multiple employees would deter theft.
"As a taxpayer, it angers me when we see public dollars so carelessly dealt with," Mr. Lamb said. He and Councilman Bill Peduto are challenging Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in the spring primary.
Motorists and residents visit the records room -- in the Municipal Courts Building, Downtown -- to purchase accident reports and police incident reports.
Mr. Lamb said the cash was stolen from Oct. 11, 2011, through last Nov. 15. At the same time, he said, the cashier took in, but did not deposit, checks totaling $61,871. He said more than $14,000 in checks are more than six months old -- perhaps too old for the city to cash.
He said he believed that the cashier accumulated checks so she could substitute them on bank runs for the cash she pocketed. But part of the theft remains a mystery. Mr. Lamb said he didn't know how the employee managed to mask the substitutions after deposit slips had been approved by a police supervisor.
In addition to involving more employees in the collection and banking process, Mr. Lamb called for use of an automated cash register at the records room, better supervision of cashiers, regular reconciliation of accounts and a change to allow payments by credit card. He said similar cash-management improvements are needed at various city departments.
"The mayor looks forward to reviewing these recommendations and seeing them implemented," his spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said in an email.
After the theft, the records room stopped accepting cash. That's one change Mr. Lamb doesn't support.
"We should be as customer-friendly as we can be," he said.
First Published February 1, 2013 12:00 am