Auditor says city was slow in notifying about gun

POULSBO — A spokeswoman for the state auditor said Poulsbo’s process of notifying the state that a gun had allegedly been stolen from police evidence may not have complied with state law.

On July 6, a .380 Bryco Arms pistol was turned in to the Poulsbo Police by Eddy Dixon after his daughter, Amanda M. Dixon, moved out of the family residence. A records check of the gun revealed that it was documented as destroyed by Dixon, a police evidence clerk at the time, and a Public Works employee, Josh Howerton, a year earlier.

The auditor was made aware of the discovery on Aug. 2, some three weeks after the gun was turned in.

State law — RCW 43.09.185 — requires that “local governments immediately report to the state auditor’s office known or suspected loss of public funds or assets or other illegal activity.”

While state policy does not precisely define immediacy, auditor’s spokeswoman Mindy Chambers described the length of time it took to notify them as too long.

“That’s not appropriate. Somebody should have told us ... The notification is important because we want to be sure that there is no further loss,” she said.

Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney said he notified Mayor Becky Erickson promptly after learning of the suspected theft but said he was unaware of the requirement to immediately notify the state auditor.

Erickson was not concerned about the state auditor’s interpretation of immediacy.

“We immediately notified the Sheriff’s Office to investigate,” Erickson said. “It would be very inappropriate to notify the auditor or anyone else for that matter of information that could potentially damage the criminal investigation.”

The state auditor’s office started a regularly scheduled audit of Poulsbo on May 13 that included evidence management. According to city Finance Director Debbie Booher, state auditor April Walker was informed of the evidence discrepancy on Aug. 2 after Booher read about the arrest of Dixon for felony firearms theft in a local newspaper. After reading the news article, Walker added new audit procedures to include how evidence was destroyed.

An exit conference to discuss the complete auditor’s report with the city is targeted for the end of September, with a full report expected mid-October, Chambers said.

In addition to a third look at the evidence room, a separate exit conference was requested to discuss recommendations concerning the police evidence room, Swiney said.

“Additional concerns have been brought to our attention and we will be back in September,” Chambers said. “We will look at all of the evidence seized in 2010 and how it was logged in.”

Section 804.8(d) of the Poulsbo Police policy manual requires, “Whenever a change is made in personnel who have access to the evidence room, an inventory of all evidence/property shall be made by an individual(s) not associated to the property room or function to ensure that records are correct and all evidence property is accounted for.”

Dixon was placed on administrative leave from her position as a police evidence clerk on June 21 pending a drug investigation, and formally resigned from the police department on June 28.

Dixon was arrested for alleged felony theft of a firearm by sheriff’s deputies on July 29 and released Aug. 11. Dixon’s next scheduled hearing is Sept. 15 at Kitsap County District Court.

According to police spokeswoman MaryCarol Howerton, a full inventory of the police evidence room has not been conducted since Dixon’s resignation.

A request for a full inventory has not been made to the state auditor.

“Neither a formal or informal request has been made by Poulsbo to conduct a full inventory of the police evidence room,” Chambers said.

Were such a request to be made, it would have to be scheduled and the cost to the city would be $78.50 per hour, Chambers said.

According to Swiney, an audit of the evidence room was conducted in May and full inventories are conducted annually.

"We are not going to do any additional inventories at this time unless it is recommended by the auditor's office," Swiney said. "At this point, I think I've been more than prudent, reasonable and responsive. I feel comfortable with the processes we have in place but we will do more based on additional input. No doors are closed."

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