The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
An unidentified legal assistant with the Douglas County Prosecutor’s office has been accused by the Missouri State Auditor of stealing more than $4,400.00 in cash during her employment. See the full auditor’s report at http://www.auditor.mo.gov/press/2009-20.pdf. She was terminated in March 2008; the prosecutor’s office asked the state auditor to review its financial records after discovering they “were in shambles.”
According to the audit, the legal assistant in Douglas County [stole] cash payments for court-ordered restitution, delinquent state tax payments and bad check restitution and fees collected at the office.
To conceal the thefts, the employee — not named in the report — held back some receipts and deposited checks and money orders from those payments in place of the stolen cash.
The auditor’s report concluded that “lack of oversight” was a contributing factor, stating “there is no documentation that the work performed or the records maintained are reviewed by a supervisor or the Prosecuting Attorney.”
The News-Leader mentioned the similarity of this case to the theft of $1.3 million dollars from the City of Springfield by former Municipal Court accounting clerk Rhonda Bateman, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2007. (Although there seems to be an rather significant difference in the amount of money netted by these former employees).
Cases of non-lawyers stealing funds while working under the supervision of an attorney raise an interesting issue of accountability (pardon the unintended pun). Lack of adequate supervision seems to be a common theme in many recent news stories involving the alleged unauthorized practice of law or theft of funds. However, lack of supervision does not excuse or mitigate an employee’s wrongdoing.