AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — A former Austin, Texas Public Library employee has been arrested and accused of the theft of at least $1.3 million in printer toner over a 12-year period.
Randall Whited, of Kyle, Texas, is suspected of fraudulently buying and stealing the printer toner, then selling it online, according to an investigative report by the Office of the City Auditor.
The report also claims Whited allegedly used an APL credit card to buy electronics and home goods for personal use.
The report says the library’s “poor practices and procedures provided an opportunity to Whited to steal from the city during his tenure.” He was allowed to approve his own purchases, and he had insufficient oversight from his supervisors, the report says.
Whited is accused of purchasing “at least $1.5 million” worth of toner from October 2007 to July 2019 for the library — based on available printer usage, the auditor’s office estimated the library would only need about $150,000 worth of toner for that timeframe.
The report also said investigators found spreadsheets detailing who he allegedly resold the toner to and security footage of Whited leaving the library with boxes of toner. It was believed Whited was taking the toner to other APL branches, but the library said they have other staff members responsible for doing that.
When investigators spoke to employees at other APL branches, they said they haven’t received new shipments of toner in several months and had “very little” on hand, the report said.
The report also detailed other alleged misuse of city credit cards by Whited.
He reportedly used city credit cards to buy at least $18,000 worth of items that appeared to be for personal use, and $15,000 of it were consumer electronics such as video games, virtual reality headsets, robotic vacuums and a drone.
The report says between February 2017 and July 2019, Whited allegedly used city credit cards to buy more than $140,000 of items, and investigators said due to poor inventory practices and inadequate purchasing records by APL, they couldn’t come to an exact amount.
When asked to provide a response to the report, Whited did not. The auditor referred the issues to the Austin Police Department “due to the potentially criminal nature of Whited’s actions.”
Whited was booked into the Hays County Jail on a theft charge on Sept. 22. Whited’s attorney Bill Hines said, “We are investigating the allegations and evaluating all options under these difficult circumstances.”
According to court records, Whited has five previous arrests from the 1980s and 90s. He was arrested and convicted of several charges of theft and burglary of a building.
Yet city records show Whited passed a criminal background check.
He is listed in those records as having “Financial Responsibility” credentials, allowing him to use those city credit cards. A city spokesperson said employees must not only pass an initial background check but also checks every two years to maintain that status. They noted other background check requirements exist for employees to be classified as working with “Vulnerable Populations.”
The spokesperson said criminal background checks consider convictions in the past 10 years, which is why Whited’s past convictions weren’t considered. They explained that no convictions were shown throughout Whited’s five background checks during his tenure at the city.
“The City of Austin is a reentry friendly employer,” the city spokesperson said. “In 2008, the City banned the criminal history box from its employment application, and in 2016 the City committed to being a Fair Chance Hiring employer.”
The Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance aims to reduce recidivism and unemployment for people with criminal convictions and allow qualified job applicants with criminal histories a chance at employment.
Austin Public Library responds
On Monday, APL Director Roosevelt Weeks said the library appreciates and accepts the findings of the investigation, and that it will use this data to make changes. Weeks said in a statement, in part:
“We take fraud, waste, and abuse seriously, and while participating in the investigation we began taking immediate steps to address systemic deficiencies… We have updated our purchasing operations and strengthened internal controls to eliminate opportunities for fraud and waste.”
APL says changes made in response to the incident include:
- Reduction in number of employees who have access to City of Austin credit cards
- Elimination of store-specific credit cards for office supplies
- Limiting the use of third-party payment platforms
- Increased monitoring
Weeks continued, saying: “I believe these changes will prevent individuals with ill-intent from being able to take advantage of the internal control systems in future, and ultimately result in a more robust program for protecting the City’s assets and the public’s money.”
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