Leftovers from Leftovers

We forgot to put this up this week…so here it is. Monday’s Leftovers:

So just how does $500,000 go missing from city coffers over the course of many years without anyone noticing?

That’s the half million dollar question facing the city of La Puente and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department right now.

The sheriff’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau is probing allegations former Industry Sgt. Joe Dyer stole nearly $500,000 in impound fees meant for La Puente.

The details of the alleged scheme are slim, but here’s what we’ve got so far:

La Puente is supposed to get $168 each time a car is towed.

That fee is paid to the sheriff’s Industry Station, which issues a receipt that the driver then provides to La Puente-based Haddick’s towing company to reclaim his or her car. The driver also pays a separate fee to Haddick’s before the car is released.

According to La Puente Councilwoman Lola Storing, Dyer allegedly was dropping off only a portion of those fees and receipts at City Hall.

While city officials reconciled the money and the records Dyer brought in, they never checked their figures with Haddick’s.

That all changed when a Haddick’s statement was left at City Hall on Dec. 20. It shows from Jan. 1 to Dec. 30, 2007, La Puente should have received $192,360 in tow fees.

The city’s budgets tell a different story. La Puente received $78,630 from vehicle impound fees in fiscal year 2005-06 and another $85,180 in fiscal year 2006-07.

The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

La Puente officials have remained pretty mum on the issue. Calls to interim City Manager Frank Tripepi have gone unanswered over the last week.

A source close to the investigation seems to think a large part of problem may have been irresponsible bookkeeping and a lack of oversight at City Hall.

According to Storing, Dyer allegedly would drop off this money in cash at the front counter at City Hall, sometimes in bags.

La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan said the city trusted the Sheriff’s Department for a long time.

Sheriff Lee Baca now says he doesn’t want his men “to act as cashiers” anymore, according to sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The department is reviewing its policies on collecting tow fees and could be heading toward a cashless system. Or, deputies could be phased out of the equation completely, Whitmore said.

La Puente is doing something similar. Earlier this year, the city hired San Jose-based Management Partners to review its contracts, services and procedures at City Hall.

One of those procedures was specifically cash handling.

City Hall employees apparently weren’t really following protocols, and those out-of-date protocols weren’t really being enforced.

“In the future we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Lujan said. “We have to make sure we have checks and balances to prevent it.”