Clallam embezzlement probe nears completion

PORT ANGELES ­– After seven months, a state investigation into the embezzlement of at least $1,500 in public funds from the Clallam County Treasurer’s Office is heading toward completion by Jan. 31, the state Auditor’s Office said Monday.

But Cathy Betts, the former Treasurer’s Office cashier suspected in the felony theft, no longer lives at the west Port Angeles address she lived at when she worked for the county.

Betts’ listed phone number did not work on Monday, and she no longer lives at the address listed in the Dex phone directory.

“She doesn’t live here anymore, actually, and I don’t care to talk to you about it either,” said a man who answered the door at Betts’ former residence and who would not identify himself before shutting the door.

End of January

Jim Brittain, director of special investigations for the state Auditor’s Office, intends to wrap up his special audit within four weeks, Mindy Chambers, Auditor’s Office spokeswoman, confirmed Monday.

“He has every intention of getting this done by the end of January,” Chambers said.

“He’s still doing the numbers.”

She said “an extreme family emergency” had forced Brittain to delay completing his audit.

Brittain “has no reason to believe” anyone other than Betts was involved in the embezzlement of what authorities have said is at least $1,500, Chambers said.

Brittain’s report will be made public when it’s referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for review, Chambers said.

The theft could then become the target of a criminal investigation by the county Sheriff’s Office and the Port Angeles Police Department.

It surfaced in mid-May when Treasurer Judy Scott discovered bookkeeping anomalies in a review of office records.

Betts was placed on administrative leave May 19 and was taken off leave June 1, effectively ending her employment with the county.

Neither Scott nor Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher have talked with Betts, they said Monday.

Authorities have no power to make her stay in the area until the investigation is complete without a court order, Gallagher said.

Whereabouts unknown

Neither Gallagher nor Scott knew if she still lives in the area, and neither would comment on how much has been stolen.

Scott said she knows how much was stolen but is not allowed to say the amount.

A lawyer from the state Attorney General’s Office has been assigned to the case, which will be referred to the that agency once Brittain’s audit is complete.

The sum of at least $1,500 must be stolen for a charge of first-degree felony theft to apply.

The offense is punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a maximum $20,000 fine.

Sheriff Bill Benedict said in an earlier interview that he was confident at least $1,500 had been stolen, calling the estimate “solid in the felony area.”

He is out of the office until today, according to a voice mail left on his office answering machine.

Gallagher and Scott said Monday they spoke with the state Auditor’s Office about the investigation in December.

“Believe me, I’d like this out and [want to] move on,” Scott said.

Additional measures

Since the theft was discovered, additional measures have been established to ensure it doesn’t happen again, including “a lot of dual controls” in which more than one person independently tallies the same figures, Scott said.

“We have a list of things we are working on to try to ensure something like this does not happen again.”

The Treasurer’s Office was expected to process $17.9 million in revenue from taxing districts, county departments and individuals in 2009.

Betts earned $45,000 a year as Scott’s only Fiscal Specialist III.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at [email protected]

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