Crime

Arrest of Shelton finance director sparks investigation in Whitman County

Cinnamon Brown worked as Shelton’s finance director from September to November 2016 before she was fired due to poor job performance, according to the city.
Cinnamon Brown worked as Shelton’s finance director from September to November 2016 before she was fired due to poor job performance, according to the city. LinkedIn

Shelton’s former finance director, who has been accused of stealing from the city, also is under investigation by her former employer in Whitman County.

Cinnamon Brown worked as Shelton’s finance director from September to November 2016 before she was fired due to poor job performance, according to the city. After her termination, finance staff found that Brown was linked to $4,632 in fraudulent paycheck deposits. The city is working to recover the money.

Brown was arrested Feb. 15. She has pleaded not guilty in Mason County Superior Court to two counts of forgery, two counts of second-degree theft, two counts of electronic data theft, and one count of financial fraud. Her trial date was set for May 30, according to a report by Jeff Chew of iFIBER One News.

Before coming to Shelton, Brown was the finance director for three years in Whitman County. Following Brown’s arrest, Whitman County has launched an internal audit investigation to determine whether any fraud took place during her employment. The Whitman County Gazette reports that no fraud has been found so far and that no criminal case is being pursued.

“If you have access and no internal controls at all — which it sounds like Shelton had a bit of a problem with — a person could create a ghost employee and pay themselves twice or something,” Whitman County Auditor Eunice Coker told the Lewiston Tribune. “We’re not finding that to be the case here.”

In response to the alleged fraud, Shelton City Manager Ryan Wheaton reports that the city has consulted with the state Auditor’s Office to review all city financial practices. The city has implemented electronic fraud detection services and will start direct deposit for all employees on May 10.

Wheaton told The Olympian that the electronic fraud monitoring system would have eliminated the problem that Brown is accused of causing. Verification by city staff is now required within six hours for anyone who tries to alter a check or cash it a second time.

“The biggest lesson we learned is that the way we were doing things hadn’t kept up with technology,” Wheaton said. “We don’t want this to ever become an issue again.”

The city’s new finance director, Nola von Neudegg, started her position Dec. 12. She previously served 10 years as finance director for Lacey Fire District 3.

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