Audit expected after city employee stole from mentally disabled

The Virginia Beach City Council is expected to authorize today one of the largest audits in its history, according to City Auditor Lyndon Remias.

City of Virginia Beach Official Seal (Virginia Beach city website)
City of Virginia Beach Official Seal (Virginia Beach city website)

The process follows allegations that a city social worker stole more than $50,000 from mentally disabled clients and aims to root out any similar cases while preventing future ones. The clients were enrolled in the city’s Supportive Living Program, which is designed to help them cope with everyday life.

If greenlit, the mammoth Human Services Department, which oversees the program, will be examined in two phases. Each could take three-to-four months, Remias said.

The first phase, which could begin by the month’s end, will look into the department’s procedures and policies governing how employees document expenses involving clients’ funds, according to a resolution that will be put before the council tonight by Councilman Jim Wood.

During this step, auditors will look into contractors and the department’s nearly 1,100 employees who have or had access to client money to determine if any of them misused the funds or failed to properly disclose expenses, Remias said.

“We’re going to have to drill down and get into the weeds,” Remias said.

He added that auditors will be looking at all receipts involving client money.

The second phase will examine if relevant policies are sufficient, according to Wood’s resolution.

Wood, the council’s liaison to the Audit Committee, said he hasn’t “heard any opposition to (the audit) at all” and expects it to pass at tonight’s council meeting without discussion.

Everyone wants to make sure there is no more theft, he said.

The thefts were revealed last month in Remias’ investigation into the Supportive Living Program. That audit found at least seven clients had lost money in “fraudulent and/or questionable transitions” between 2011 and 2015. One lost more than $24,000 and another more than $15,000, according to the audit.

An unidentified employee admitted to using clients’ funds for personal use and then resigned, the audit said. The case was then handed over to the authorities, it said.

Remias thinks he will need “at least two” contracted assistant auditors to comb through the records of one of the city’s largest departments. The council will need to approve the temporary hires at a cost Remias has not yet determined.

Following the allegations, the city has taken several actions, according to the previous audit. The Beach has suspended two employees, planned to reimburse stolen funds, scheduled monthly monitoring of client financial ledgers and made staff sign a statement acknowledging their responsibilities regarding money management.

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