Arlington fires one worker, disciplines others for opening bank accounts for program

Arlington County officials have fired one employee and disciplined as many as three others after they opened and maintained two bank accounts for a county-run senior citizens program.

The head of the Senior Travel Program, which has a staff of 2.5 people, opened the accounts in late 2010, county officials said. A similar account may have been opened as early as 2004, said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary. Almost $136,000 was transferred from those accounts to the county’s coffers.

The bank accounts were used to handle bills and payments funneled through the senior program, part of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department. The program arranges trips and events for residents 55 and older. No one in either the parks department or the larger Management and Finance Department oversaw or supervised the accounts or the spending.

Marcy Foster, the county’s human resources director, said no money was found to be missing after an internal audit, but she said the incident stemmed from “sloppy accounting” practices and a lack of supervision.

A police investigation into the opening of the accounts ended in spring 2012 without criminal charges, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said.

Arlington officials declined to name the employees, saying it was a personnel issue.

The issue came to the administration’s attention in August 2011 when one of the participants in the Senior Travel Program’s discounted group trips and events attempted to cash a $200 refund check for a trip she did not make. The account that the refund check had been written on had been closed, Foster said, because the program’s staff had moved it to another bank.

The participant contacted O’Leary’s office, and that triggered an investigation.

“I’m the only person in Arlington County government authorized to open bank accounts,” O’Leary said. “We didn’t know about this account. . . . There were no checks, no balances, no monitoring, no scrutiny.”

When O’Leary’s office tried to close the accounts and to get records of the account activity, they were told only the person who opened the account could close it. That person and two volunteers had bank cards allowing them to withdraw funds, O’Leary said.

The county eventually was able to gain control of accounts and closed them Nov. 16, 2011.

The story, first reported by ­ARLnow.com, came to light Monday after one of the disciplined employees, since retired, appealed the loss of some of her unpaid leave to the local Civil Service Commission.

Foster said employees have been retrained about proper financial controls.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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