Sunday, April 06, 2008

Putting improper cash handling in perspective.

She stole $143,000 from the Edmonds School District and is going to jail for 14 months:

Lewin, a former district bookkeeper, has no criminal history, and she stood to spend just three months or less in the county jail under the state’s sentencing laws.

By law, Bowden was able to go beyond the standard sentencing range because Lewin had agreed that what she did was a major economic offense against the school district.

Deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell asked for only four months in jail. Lynnwood defense lawyer Michael Mulvihill recommended three months or less.

Bowden acknowledged that Lewin cooperated with school officials and the state auditor when the theft was discovered. She also pleaded guilty, saving the state the expense of a trial.

“Candidly, that saved you a considerable amount of time,” Bowden told her.

After imposing the surprise prison term, Bowden said “I do not do so lightly. I do so because of the magnitude of the crime.”…..

Besides prison, Lewin is obligated to pay back a big chunk of the money, and may be made to pay the rest when an ongoing civil lawsuit is completed.

Hunter and Mulvihill have agreed that she owes at least $68,500.

This information came from "
The Subduction Zone"

Now, knowing that Ms. Lewin served a considerable sentence because "what she did was a major economic offense against the school district", how then, should the courts look at the Piano Scam?

If you look at just the amount that Marla Miller willingly handed over to her friend, Arnie Tucker (and then promptly asked to have returned), that $40,000.00 is nearly 60% of the total that Ms. Lewin conservatively liberated from district accounts. Of course, the actual Lewin haul was much larger, but the lesser amount cited by prosecuting and defense attorneys was the figure used in the ensuing guilty plea. The Miller haul is a little more difficult to quantify.

The Piano Scam was likely hatched while "on the clock" for the District, while sitting in a district chair, with feet on a district desk and plotting on a district telephone. Ms. Lewin's offense did not involve anyone else. She didn't have to burn productive hours chatting up her accomplice. She didn't have to meet anyone at a local coffee shop to scheme up ways to make the transaction look legitimate.

Lewin and Miller both violated RCWs. Lewin used a direct approach and just skimmed funds from district accounts. Miller avoided legally-required competitive bidding processes to skim funds for the benefit of a third party. While the Lewin impact can be quantified by critically-evaluating accounts, the Miller impact will never truly be understood because competitive forces, which change with prevailing market conditions, cannot be recreated with any degree of certainty. There may have been a generous philanthropist in our community with 14 brand new pianos just sitting around collecting dust. We will never know.

Of course, Lewin had limited access and limited responsibilities. Her take was restricted by the nature of her work. Miller, on the other hand, realized that no one noticed that she just bamboozled the District with a Piano Scam and could upgrade to something like purchasing contaminated property for millions more than actual value.

It is clear that the Piano Scam was illegal. Whether the State Auditor calls it a crime has yet to be seen, but the impact to taxpayers is the same as if these funds were just taken home by a bookkeeper. If the State Auditor does cite this transaction as being illegal, will the school board act on this information and terminate Miller? If the school board decides not to terminate Miller, they would essentially be endorsing corruption and supporting the theft of public funds. In such a case, the school board would have to be eliminated before more damage is done. Eliminating a school board would require a recall petition.

Fun Factoid: So, if Lewin's haul was $143,000.00 and resulted in a sentence of 14 months. Miller's haul of $40,000.00 from the Piano Scam and $2,300,000.00 from the new administration site should result in a sentence of 234 months, or just a bit under 20 years.


Anonymous said...

An adult should realize the consequences of doing something "illegal"--whether that illegal thing is driving too fast, stealing; looking at porn at work, etc. We know there are consequences. Mostly we hope we won't get caught. But we do know the consequences--we're just willing to risk it. (Consider the former Gov. of NY--he knew the consequences, but he took the chance anyway.)

Anonymous said...

It appears that looking at porn might come back and haunt you. I hope that any local school district through this website is made aware of the warehouse supervisor at Edmonds, and he is never allowed a position near children.

Anonymous said...

The article is well written and clearly stated. Ms. Miller is defintely guilty of the paino scam, and deserves to be prosecuted just like Vicky Lewin. My question: Where is the Superintendent and does he ever address these issues? Is he blind, dumb or both? Does he just look the other way and hope these issues will "go away"? I just finished my paper work for the Snohomish County Assessor and will be relieved of paying taxes/levies to the Edmonds School District; I encourage other senior citizens to do the same. Although I will be relieved of supporting bad choices by District personnel, I still care about what happens in the district and will continue to read the Blog daily and will support Mark in any way possible. I CARE about KIDS and they deserve better than the current administration/Board is providing.

Anonymous said...

No, Nick does not care. Any other questions?