Shelton, WA — In June 2016, the City of Shelton utilized a private recruiting firm to find a Finance Director following the retirement of a longtime employee. After a two-month search, Cinnamon Brown was selected for the position. She began working at the City on September 6, 2016.
City Manager Ryan Wheaton addressed concerns with Ms. Brown’s performance early in her brief time with the city. On November 14, 2016, Ms. Brown’s employment was terminated due to her poor job performance.
In January 2017, City of Shelton Finance staff noticed an inconsistency that pertained to Ms. Brown’s final paycheck. Staff were able to quickly correct the transaction, which reversed a $2,426.57 charge. Shelton Police were immediately contacted, and a fraud investigation began the same day.
Finance staff next conducted an internal audit, from which two more fraudulent checks pertaining to Ms. Brown were discovered totaling $4,632.07. This triggered further investigation from Shelton Police. On February 15, 2017, Ms. Brown was arrested on various charges including forgery (2), theft (2), financial fraud (1), and electronic data theft (2).
Over the last month, City of Shelton Finance staff have taken steps to address this issue, and improve outdated practices by:
(1) consulting with the Washington State Auditor’s office to review all current City financial practices and processes, with a focus on identifying and correcting any potential internal control deficiencies;
(2) collaborating with the City’s banking institution to implement electronic fraud detection services;
(3) working with employee groups to implement direct deposit for all employees.
The City of Shelton is focused on rebuilding trust throughout the community. This trust begins by ensuring sound financial practices are in place. It is now clear that outdated practices created a liability, which Ms. Brown took advantage of in her brief time at the City. To combat this problem, staff have made significant changes to strengthen security of City finances to a level not previously practiced.
The City will continue to pursue the legal means for recovering the aforementioned $4,632.07. Additionally, City leadership has requested that the recruiting firm who found Ms. Brown on behalf of the City refund all fees associated with their service.