San Diego city auditor Eduardo Luna has gotten to the bottom of a case involving some long-missing cleaning supplies and water theft: the custodian did it.
"Our Office received an allegation that a Parks and Recreation Department Custodian removed a residential water meter locking device, bypassed the water meter, used a meter that was removed from a nearby residence, and may have stolen City cleaning supplies for home use," says a May 21 report.
"Our investigation determined that the allegations all appear to be substantiated based on our interviews with City staff and our review of records. Public Utilities Department records confirm the allegations regarding water meter locking device removal, bypass, and substitution, all of which resulted in the issuance of Administrative Citations totaling $2,500, in addition to water bill fees and charges.
The worker in question had been cited three separate times with a total of $1500 in fines for "Tampering with or Obstructing Water System Equipment" in 2017 and got a $1000 sanction this January for "Regulation of Water System - Water to Pass Through Meter," per the report.
"We also identified several industrial cleaning supply items that were left behind in the employee’s former rental home. The cleaning supplies were all consistent with brands in use by the City and correspond to an earlier internal investigation by Parks management into missing cleaning supplies that [was] not successful."
The findings required a bit of Sherlock Holmes-style deductive reasoning.
"We noted that although there is a Waxie showroom that is open to the public at 9353 Waxie Way in Kearny Mesa, the store is far from the employee’s former home address. Other closer shopping options would have been much more convenient sources to purchase cleaning supplies. Based on the balance of the evidence, we believe that the most likely explanation is that the Waxie-brand cleaning supplies found in the employee’s former home came from the City’s supply."
How the custodian got away with it is also a matter of speculation, though a prior vacancy is said to be a likely reason.
"There was a report of missing cleaning supplies prior to August 15, 2017," the audit says. "At the time, the Building Supervisor position was vacant, and had been for approximately 10 months after the prior Building Supervisor vacated the position on in October 2016."
According to the audit, "There may have been an increased risk of theft of cleaning supplies between October 2016 and August 2017, because the Building Supervisor typically performs the inventory monitoring function and tracks the distribution of supplies to the four lead custodians.
"The current Building Supervisor stated that there have been no identified issues with missing inventory since he started working for the City in August 2017. He explained that he processes orders for cleaning supplies from Waxie and other vendors based on past usage and anticipated needs. The supplies are stored in a locked cage, the key to which is maintained in his office. Only the four lead Custodians have access to the key."
Clean-up sleuthing has been handed off to Parks and Recreation, which promised to "conduct an independent investigation to determine if City policies were violated and take the appropriate corrective action concerning the identified employee." The "target implementation date" is July 31.