A Beaver County Waste Management employee misused up to $38K, new audit shows

A new audit shows that from January 2013 to March 2019, the former secretary of the Beaver County Waste Management Service District No. 5 misused anywhere from $9,470 and $38,001 of public funding.

Auditors found inappropriate use of a debit card, nonpayroll check disbursements payable to the former secretary and signed by the former secretary, and potential time abuse including a difference in hours totaling $14,327 of pay.

During the annual review of the district’s operation, assistance from the state auditor was requested to identify and quantify suspected inappropriate transactions made with the agency debit card. In its report, released Tuesday, the auditor’s office identified three areas of misuse of funds: debit card misuse, inappropriate reimbursements and potential time abuse.

A criminal charge was not recommended in the report, but Leo Kanell, Beaver County deputy attorney, confirmed that criminal charges for misuse of public funds already were filed in May.

The former secretary, identified as Amy Woodside, declined to comment when contacted Tuesday.

A total of 78 transactions totaling $5,060 were deemed to be personal expenditures. Another 100 transactions lacked supporting documentation, had questionable business purposes or both. Woodside admitted to the state that she personally used the card for just 61 transactions, but she also confirmed that she was in sole possession of the card, auditors said.

The auditor reviewed 60 nonpayroll check disbursements, believed to be reimbursements, payable to Woodside and totaling $10,048. The former secretary also made out 24 checks payable to herself, totaling $4,333. Another 32 checks were deemed “questionable,” due to missing or incomplete documentation.

Woodside also managed to alter nearly all of her time stamps for each pay period during the year, an act that auditors called “excessive and unreasonable.” They believe that at least some of the 744 questionable hours, totaling $14,327 of pay, was unearned.

Beaver County Waste Management Service District No. 5 operates as a separate entity of the Beaver County Commission but was formed under the latter in 1993. The district, with just three people working in the office, operates two landfill sites in Beaver County and is administered by a seven-member board.

District Manager Mike Nielsen said he only learned of Woodside’s alleged misdeeds when they were discovered in the regular audit.

“It’s happening everywhere and it comes back to trust. I mean, how many people are we going to hire in these little organizations to look over other people’s shoulders?” Nielsen said in an interview. “I guess I’m a little bit cynical. It could have been worse. I’m glad it wasn’t.”

Nielsen confirmed Woodside applied for and obtained a debit card no one knew she had. This is the same debit card the state said was used for more than $5,060 of personal expenditures.

“To be honest with you, we placed too much trust in one person,” Nielsen said.

The audit shows that the former secretary had excessive financial control.

According to State Auditor John Dougall, the district was not complying with state law requiring separation of duties.

“It’s very inappropriate for one person to have that much control. Unfortunately, we see this too often,” Dougall said. “When one individual has access to money coming in, deposits being made and checks going out, they can skim money off the top without the organization noticing.”

Woodside served as the district secretary until February. According to Dougall, risky financial transactions started appearing in district records around January 2013.

Court records show no previous criminal record for Woodside, but she has had three judgments, adding up to nearly $7,000.

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