(Natural News) A former employee of the Austin Public Library (APL) in Texas was arrested after stealing at least $1.5 million worth of printer toner and reselling it online. The city auditor reported that Randal Whited, a former accounting associate at the library, bought printer toner from October 2007 to July 2019 and resold it to different individuals. Investigators found spreadsheets detailing buyers who purchased the printer toner and security footage of Whited carrying boxes of toner as he left the library premises as evidence for Whited’s illicit actions.
The report also outlined Whited’s misuse of official APL credit cards, racking up over $140,000 in purchases from Feb. 2017 to July 2019. Some of his purchases included video games, virtual reality headsets, robotic vacuums and even a drone. In particular, the library’s “poor practices and procedures” enabled Whited to steal from the city: He had the power the approve his purchases and had little oversight from his superiors. Investigators could not account how much Whited stole on account of the library’s poor inventory practices and inadequate records.
The city auditor asked Whited to respond to a report, but he did not – which led to the involvement of the Austin Police Department due to the potentially criminal nature of Whited’s actions. Authorities then took Whited into custody, and he was booked into the Hays County Jail on Sept. 22 on a theft charge.
Background checks did not consider entire criminal history
According to court records obtained by local media outlet KXAN, Whited had five arrests and convictions for theft and burglary charges from the 1980s and 1990s. However, city records also obtained by KXAN indicated he passed a criminal background check and even had financial responsibility credentials that allowed him to use credit cards.
A city spokesperson explained that while employees must pass both an initial background check and succeeding checks every two years, these only took into account convictions in the past ten years. This could explain why Whited’s past convictions were not considered during his tenure with the APL. (Related: Obama’s new executive order could force convicted criminals into American government positions.)
Despite the incident, the spokesperson maintained that Austin is a “re-entry friendly employer.” The city banned the criminal history box from its employment application in 2008 and implemented the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance – which aimed to “reduce recidivism and unemployment” by allowing people with criminal records to enter the workforce – eight years later.
City of Austin to fix internal processes
Both the city of Austin and the APL have committed to fix their processes to ensure incidents similar to Whited’s misuse of public property will not happen again.
The city’s purchasing officer said the incident served as a learning experience and was only isolated to the APL, adding: “We want to assure the public that our purchasing card program is a safe and valuable business tool for the city.”
APL Director Roosevelt Weeks said in a statement that the library takes “fraud, waste and abuse seriously” and has “addressed systemic deficiencies” in its internal processes, such as reducing the number of employees who have access to the city’s credit cards and increasing monitoring. Weeks added that the new changes in the APL’s internal process “will prevent individuals with ill-intent from being able to take advantage of the internal control systems in [the] future.”
Randall Whited’s misuse of public property at the APL is just one of many stories of corruption by government employees.
AustinTexas.gov 1 [PDF]