by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2013
A new fraud investigation report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley finds that an “electroneurodiagnostic technician” at Harborview Medical Center – which is owned by King County and operated by the University of Washington – between January 2010 and the end of October, 2012 received pay for 628 hours she didn’t work, valued at $16,286. It is the third time since April 2012 that state investigations have concluded a Harborview worker committed fraud. Another auditor’s report in 2010 found fault with cash handling practices at Harborview.
The state investigation released this week began after one by UW’s Internal Audit unit which concluded there had been wrongdoing. The state report concluded that the Harborview technician arrived late or left early, or both, more than 350 times in the 36-month period reviewed, and that her submitted time sheets reflected 628 more hours than she worked, for which she was paid. They “were approved by someone without direct knowledge of her time worked,” the report said.
Seattle Police say they’re investigating. No criminal charges have been filed yet by King County prosecutors, and often they are not, even after police finish investigating, except when larger amounts are at stake, UW officials say. The focus instead often turns to restitution only. In at least one of the two other Harborview misappropriation cases reported by the state since April 2012, the employee has made restitution and no charges were filed. Harborview is a 413-bed facility prominently perched on Seattle’s First Hill, with 4,684 employees and the state’s only top-tier trauma and burn center.
Worker made $62,636
In the newly-reported case, the State Auditor’s Office identified the Harborview electroneurodiagnostic technician as Lanissa Johnson. State of Washington worker salary records show a Lanissa M. Johnson with that title earning $62,636 in 2011 and $53,926 in 2012. Other state records reveal she was discharged on October 31, 2012. Other records indicate Johnson resides in Mukilteo and is 35. A call to her listed residential number has not yet been returned.
Full extent of loss not known
The fraud investigation report is accompanied by a cover letter from Kelley to Harborview’s Executive Director Eileen Whalen and copied to Lillen Namba of UW Medicine’s Internal Control division. The fraud report suggests that the losses incurred due to over-reporting of Johnson’s extent of work may have been greater than the 628 hours documented in the state fraud report, from early 2010 to late 2012. She started the job in 2007, but any such losses prior to 2010 aren’t known because UW’s Internal Audit division and Harborview management “did not think it would be cost effective” to extend the probe back to then, the state auditor’s fraud report says.
Public Data Ferret’s University of Washington+Ethics archive
Interviewed by auditors, Johnson said discrepancies might have resulted from filling out her time sheets in advance and not updating them, “but she was unable to conclusively provide reasons” explaining the excess hours for which she was paid.
In a response included in the new fraud report, Harborview says it will work with UW Internal Audit to “seek restitution” from Johnson. The hospital also says in April it started using a system called KRONOS with “badging in and out capability” that that will allow identification of employees who need “counseling/corrective action” about time sheet discrepancies.
Not the first time
However, the problem isn’t new – and Harborview has agreed to tighten up timesheet review before. After an October 2011 UW Internal Audit report that a Harborview radiology department supervisor identified as Terza S. Koches of West Seattle had repeatedly padded her time sheets with hours not worked and had as a result received unearned pay, a April 2012 State Auditor’s office follow-up fraud report determined the amount lost at more than $9,000, from March 2008 into September 2010. In that report Harborview management said it agreed with state recommendations to ensure time sheets are reviewed for accuracy by supervisors with direct knowledge of actual hours worked by corresponding employees. Yet as the new fraud report finds, similar problems continued in Johnson’s case into late 2012.
In another case, a a 2011 UW Internal Audit found and a April 2012 state fraud report confirmed that a Harborview burn unit worker identified as Kim Bietelspacher of Puyallup had misappropriated almost $18,000 by submitting duplicate reimbursement claims and altering receipts for consumer items she purchased – often portable DVD players – for patients in recovery.
A fourth auditor’s report noted Harborview cash-handling problems
Additionally, a finding in a March 2010 state accountability audit of Harborview was that cash handling operations at the medical center’s gift shop, medical records unit, burn clinic and two other clinics that were examined, lacked standard safeguards to protect against misappropriation of funds.
UW Director of Internal Audit Internal Richard Codova said Wednesday that Koches did pay back the total of $12,460 recommended by the state; $9,388 for misappropriated funds and $3,072 for the cost of the state’s probe. No criminal charges were filed. Cordova’s office is checking on whether restitution has yet been paid by Bietelspacher. No criminal charges have been filed in that case, either.