What the city lost


by Katie Utehs


Posted on April 27, 2012 at 2:25 PM

SPOKANE--We wanted to check out how the City of Spokane was taking care of your tax dollars. In a 2 On Your Side investigation we tracked down where your money was lost and what city hall is now doing to protect your investment.

KREM 2's Katie Utehs spent weeks going through the list of all the lost equipment.

The City of Spokane is responsible for over $12 million in electronic equipment, not to mention vehicles and other gear purchased with tax money.

We wanted to see how the city is safe guarding your investment.

KREM 2 news filed a public records request for a list of all lost or stolen city owned property from 2005 to present.

We received a big list of lost and stolen items a few weeks ago. You may be surprised to hear some of the large ticket items we found have been stolen and equipment that is simply missing from city inventory.
City Spokesperson Marlene Feist agreed to explain the results. "We want to hold our employees accountable for taking care of the equipment they're entrusted with."

In the last seven years $31,000 in equipment has been stolen.

The first thing we noticed, mostly pricey laptops some valued around $5,000 each.

Feist's explanation, "unfortunately a laptop is a pretty movable piece of equipment."

She doesn't deny theft by employees, but says it doesn't happen often. "Certainly we have had instances of employees who have taken things from the city and we've had to deal with them through disciplinary actions."

She says equipment is usually taken while crews are in the field, like firefighter river rescue gear.

The Spokane fire department says a bag worth $2,000 was stolen during a training exercise in 2010.

Parks and recreation can be a target for thieves too.

A club car was stolen from Underhill Park; the damages totaling $3,500.
Not to mention, untold amounts of fuel theft from the cities parks and golf courses.

What about the equipment that's simply unaccounted for? There's currently $110,000 in inventory missing including computers, wireless routers, and even IBM servers.

"We will eventually track those down to where they got relocated. But, sometimes they end up in strange places” said Feist.

The city tracks electronic equipment using a barcode system

Of the nearly 2,000 city employees about 1,500 are assigned computers.

Feist says they've made improvements in keeping track of equipment, many of it is eventually accounted for.

Our records request shows in a seven year span around $160,000 worth of computer equipment went missing then was later found.

The city is scanning more regularly and all new equipment is locked up until it's inventoried and assigned.

Feist says she would give the city a “solid b+"

We're still waiting on our records request from the police department and should hear back by mid-march.

We also looked into cities about the size of Spokane to see how we compare.
City officials in Madison Wisconsin told me they don't track equipment the way Spokane does and Tacoma has not fulfilled our records request yet.