PORTLAND, Maine — A former Westbrook city employee embezzled $118,000 in public funds over a nine-month period before being fired, Mayor Colleen Hilton said Wednesday morning.
Calling the revelation one of “grave concern,” Hilton said in a statement that the FBI and a Westbrook police officer were tipped off after being “alerted to suspicious transactions involving the private bank accounts of a Westbrook city employee.”
The former employee is believed to have skimmed the money from cash deposits between last July and this April, officials said.
“We had a lot of confidence in her and she had a lot of discretion. I hate to say it, but you can’t trust anybody,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said.
Officials declined to release the former employee’s name, since no charges have been filed. The former employee did not steal any private information, Hilton said.
The city has since changed its bank deposit procedures, and is reviewing how it hires new employees.
“In this case, the person’s background is pretty strong, but we’re now looking at can we go any deeper,” Bryant said.
Alicia Gardiner, the city’s director of finance, did not return a call seeking comment.
A recorded message at the phone number listed for the city’s tax collector said the position is currently vacant and that all responsibilities have been transferred to Gardiner.
There have been a number of municipal embezzlement cases in Maine over the years.
A former community development director in Norway was found in 2006 to have stolen nearly $118,000 as well, but over a four year period. That same year, a town clerk in New Sharon was indicted on charges of taking $4,000 in public money, but she later agreed to plead guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges and pay the town back $2,000.
In 1997, a late Fort Kent office manager was believed to have embezzled more than $500,000 in excise tax funds over about seven years.
Although he wasn’t stealing from the town, a former Milo town manager was sentenced to jail for 60 days in 2012 for skimming nearly $50,000 from his local Kiwanis Club over three years.