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Thursday, July 26, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.
City of Seattle ordered to reinstate 2 fired, demoted in Senior Services case
By Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporter
A city of Seattle hearing examiner has ordered the reinstatement of two employees fired or demoted for failing to aggressively investigate allegations of fraud at a nonprofit senior-services agency that contracted with the city.
A program manager for Senior Services of Seattle King County was charged in January with stealing $91,000 from a city-funded program that supported grandparents who suddenly held responsibility for their grandchildren. He has pleaded not guilty.
No city employees were implicated, but four were recommended for discipline, including termination, for not thoroughly investigating a whistle-blower complaint in November 2010 that a program manager at the nonprofit was misusing city funds.
Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner on Wednesday ordered Ginny Adams, who had been fired, and Georgiana Arnold, who first was terminated then demoted, be reinstated to their former positions and awarded back pay and benefits.
Tanner concluded their failure to investigate was a serious offense and a breach of fiduciary responsibility and public trust. But she said the failures didn't represent a pattern of misconduct and that the discipline was not consistent with other sanctions imposed by the department.
She ordered a 30-day suspension for Adams, a senior grants and contracts specialist in the city's Aging and Disability Services Division, and a two-week suspension for Arnold, a senior manager who supervised Adams.
Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Dannette Smith, director of the city Human Services Department, said, "HSD is going to accept the decision. We're going to work as amicably as we can to bring them back."
An independent investigation Smith ordered concluded in October that the whistle-blower offered to provide Adams documents to back up allegations that Gregory Townsend, the Senior Services program manager, had created a fictitious moving and hauling business and was billing the city for work not performed.
The report also found that Adams gave Townsend two weeks' notice that she would be reviewing his invoices and expenditures. Her review did not uncover the fraud. The whistle-blower ultimately complained to the state auditor, who notified Senior Services in March 2011.
Townsend was fired that month.
Pam Piering, a former director of Aging and Disability Services, was also recommended for firing, but retired in July 2011.
The department has since reorganized its contract services and oversight, said Smith. She said employees ask more questions and are more vigilant about contract monitoring.
"As much as some people wanted to say this was a witch hunt — no, this is about ensuring that the department has the leadership to provide oversight and make the staff successful."
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or email@example.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.
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