The City of Shelton says its former finance director has been arrested for forgery, theft and fraud for allegedly depositing her paychecks multiple times, taking advantage of a deficiency in the City’s financial practices.

Cinnamon Brown was arrested Wednesday after an investigation determined she utilized a mobile app and ATM machines to deposit three city payroll checks fraudulently.

A news release from the City explains that in January, City Finance staff noticed an inconsistency pertaining to Ms. Brown’s final paycheck. Staff quickly corrected the transaction and reversed a $2,426.57 charge. Shelton Police was immediately contacted, and a fraud investigation began the same day.

Finance staff then conducted an internal audit, which turned up two more fraudulent checks pertaining to Ms. Brown totaling $4,632.07. This triggered further investigation by Shelton Police.

Brown was booked into Mason County Jail on two counts of Forgery, two counts of Theft 2nd Degree, one count of Financial Fraud, and two counts of Electronic Data Theft.  She remains in jail and is expected to make her first court appearance today.

Brown worked as City Finance Director from September 6, 2016 to November 14, 2016. The City utilized a private recruiting firm to find a Finance Director following the retirement of a longtime employee. After a two-month search, Brown was selected for the position. However, City Manager Ryan Wheaton addressed concerns with Ms. Brown’s performance early in her brief time with the city and she was terminated due to her poor job performance.

The City has taken steps to correct the deficiency and improve outdated practices by:

(1) consulting with the Washington State Auditor’s office to review all current City financial practices and processes, with a focus on identifying and correcting any potential internal control deficiencies;
(2) collaborating with the City’s banking institution to implement electronic fraud detection services;
(3) working with employee groups to implement direct deposit for all employees.

The release also says: “The City of Shelton is focused on rebuilding trust throughout the community. This trust begins by ensuring sound financial practices are in place. It is now clear that outdated practices created a liability, which Ms. Brown took advantage of in her brief time at the City. To combat this problem, staff have made significant changes to strengthen security of City finances to a level not previously practiced.”

The City is pursuing legal means for recovering the $4,632.07. Additionally, City leadership has requested that the recruiting firm who found Ms. Brown on behalf of the City refund all fees associated with their service.

Wheaton told MasonWebTV Powered by HCC that the recruiting firm, Prothman Company, recommended Brown and guaranteed she had the appropriate skills to complete the work. The City has utilized Protham on multiple occasions to recruit key staff including Wheaton and Police Chief Darrin Moody.

The City conducted its own search for a new Finance Director and hired Nola von Neudegg who started in the position on December 12, 2016.