An Ambridge Water Authority employee accused of stealing $26,000 to $27,000 in cash has been suspended from her job without pay.
Ambridge Police Chief James Mann said water authority officials have decided not to press charges at this time and is instead giving the employee 60 days to pay back the money.
Mann said the employee is from the Ambridge area and has worked for the water authority for 39 years. She plans to draw from her pension to repay the money.
“She was a long-time employee and they entrusted her with handling this money. Everybody is very disappointed and upset. So is she,” Mann said.
“Like I told her, sometimes good people make mistakes and do bad things. This is a perfect example of that, where a good person does wrong.”
Ambridge Water Authority Solicitor Garen Fedeles, General Manager Mary Hrotic, and Board Chairman Dave Bell met with Mann on Thursday, June 26, because they believed a theft had occurred with one of the office personnel.
Officials are awaiting an audit from Mark Turnley of Ambridge, but initial figures show $26,025 was taken.
On Monday, police were notified that an analysis of bank deposits showed numerous discrepancies between Jan. 14, 2014 and May 7, 2015.
During that time frame, Mann said bank statements came up short on 157 occasions when compared to written-out deposit slips. The employee’s initials were handwritten on each of the slips.
“The same employee was the person who was counting the drawer and actually filling out the deposit slips,” he said.
Authorities believe smaller amounts of cash were taken in 2012 before larger sums started going missing.
In 2013, a total of $4,890 in cash went missing. In 2014, a total of $16,109 was taken on 97 occasions. In 2015, officials reported $5,026 went missing on 20 occasions.
Officials are awaiting an audit of June to determine if additional cash were taken. Payments by check or debit are scanned electronically and were not taken, Mann said.
Mann interviewed the employee Monday and said she initially denied being involved, but eventually confessed. When asked why she did it, the employee said she needed the money.
Roughly $7 million to $8 million goes through the water authority every year because, in addition to water payments, the authority collects garbage fees for the borough and sewage fees for the Ambridge Municipal Authority. The water authority has paid the borough and municipal authority, and is out the money in this case, Mann said.
Negotiations between the union, the board of directors and the general manager came to the agreement that if the employee could come up with the money quickly, felony criminal charges would not be filed against her.
“It’s not uncommon for this to happen," Mann said. "The water authority is the victim and that’s their right to not proceed with any charges.”