Moses Lake, WA 98837, USA

Audit claims misappropriation of funds at Washington Beef Commission

By CHERYL SCHWEIZER
For the Basin Business Journal

RENTON — A Washington Beef Commission employee resigned in August 2018, and the King County prosecutor is reviewing possible charges after the employee allegedly misappropriated $35,007 from the commission. The Washington Auditor’s Office recently released a report on the allegations.

The office manager allegedly used a commission credit card to make $22,887 in unauthorized purchases and deposited two checks, a total of $12,120, into her personal account, according to a report from the auditor’s office.

“In June 2019, a Renton police detective interviewed the office manager, who acknowledged misuse of the commission credit card and that she deposited the checkoff assessment (checks) into her personal bank account,” the audit report states.

The Washington Beef Commission’s office is in Renton.

The alleged misappropriations occurred from November 2017 through June 2018. Executive director Patti Brumbach said the commission’s insurance covered its loss.

Most of the commission’s funding is generated through “checkoff assessments,” which are a charge of $1.50 on each head of cattle sold in the state. The assessment is paid at collection points around the state and sent to the commission. Most of the time that money is deposited in a way that does not involve commission staff, Brumbach said, and it was an “unusual situation” for the office manager to have access to the checks.

The credit card was one of four issued for commission business, and part of the office manager’s job was to keep track of the invoices. The unauthorized purchases were removed from the statements before they were presented to commission officials for review, according to the audit report. “The office manager also printed and sent two checks from the commission’s bank account to pay down her personal charges on the commission credit card,” the audit report said.

The results of the investigation were turned over to the King County prosecutor’s office, Brumbach said.

The commission’s reply to the audit said staffers made changes to its procedures in September 2018. Those include commission staff using financial statements coming directly from the bank, and reviewing and confirming checkoff assessment revenue each month.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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