In Fairview Heights, checks seem out of balance

December 17, 2013 

The public just learned that a clerk in the Fairview Heights Police Department allegedly crossed over to the criminal side. Patricia J. Ostendorf was charged this week with official misconduct and stealing more than $10,000 of impound fees.

The department gets kudos for firing Ostendorf as soon as the theft was discovered and investigated internally, then asking the State Police to conduct a criminal investigation. No sweeping this under the rug or protecting one of their own.

But we do question the length of time her actions went undetected. Police Chief Nick Gallius said the city has excellent internal controls in place. But if that were the case, it seems this would have been discovered in a matter of weeks or months, not more than a year. The charges say the thefts occurred between May 16, 2012, and June 27, 2013.

This unfortunate situation should prompt Fairview Heights and other communities to look at the financial controls they have in place -- not just for identifying thefts after they occur but ensuring that there is no opportunity and therefore no temptation to steal.

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