Eight years ago, a “trusted” City Hall finance staff member was terminated, the Hamilton Police called in to investigate, and a veil of secrecy dropped at City Hall. We know the allegations involved siphoning cash from the Hamilton Farmers’ Market as part of a $1-million fraud against the City.
The siphoning is believed to have begun in 2005, and the City ignored tips from vendors in the Market as early as 2009 about discrepancies in billing and payments. Eventually, the person was caught. How or why, we will never know – it is yet another City Hall secret.
Following this, City cash-handling policies were updated in closed session and never made public citing civic security. The updated policy is available to those with access to City cash, but not the public.
The police investigation into the 2005 to 2015 fraud ended without charges. City Hall denied freedom of information requests, and police never announced any charges. The employee was fired by the City.
All this indicates the serious deficiencies in City of Hamilton policies which enabled the fraud meant a criminal prosecution be unfruitful.
Which brings us to the Hamilton Public Library’s posting its updated cash handling policy last week. The HPL policy changes include that safe combinations should be changed “seasonally for outdoor facilities (e.g. outdoor pools, arenas, golf courses, etc)”. Seems like a carbon-copy of a policy from elsewhere, likely City Hall.
Other changes include background checks are now required of all cash handlers, surplus reconciliations at least quarterly, and better document keeping – including triplicate records when creating handwritten records.
The HPL long ago implemented computerized records (something the City of Hamilton did not do prior to the fraud being caught), and thus not vulnerable to the unsophisticated fraud which occurred at the Farmers’ Market.