by Matt Rosenberg March 26th, 2012
Another case of employee ethical misconduct at King County’s Harborview Medical Center – operated by the University of Washington’s UW Medicine unit – has come to light, and is expected to be highlighted in an upcoming Washington state auditor’s office investigative report. Using the Washington Public Records Act, Public Data Ferret has obtained a copy of an October 2011 UW internal audit describing the falsification of work hours records, leading to unearned pay of almost $9,000 by a nuclear medicine technologist-supervisor in Harborview’s radiology department, named Terza S. Koches. She was already earning more than $100,000 per year. Her registered voter address is in West Seattle’s Fairmount Park neighborhood.
Paid at rate of $108K in prior year
Koches, 44, resigned November 20, 2010 to avoid a planned firing, the audit says. She also earned $107,771.24 that year despite missing the last month-and-a-third of work, according to UW salary records from the Washington state Office of Financial Management. State-issued UW salary records also show Koches’ pay had been steadily rising since 2005 when she was promoted to her supervisory position at a monthly rate then equivalent to almost $90,000 per year; she subsequently was paid at a full-time monthly rate equal to almost $101,000 in 2007 and $108,384 in 2009.
State auditor reviewing at least two Harborview ethics cases
The UW internal audit report on Koches is dated October, 2011 and has recently been under review by the State Auditor’s Office as it prepares to issue its own investigative report on the matter. We’ve also reported recently on another UW internal audit detailing ethical transgressions at Harborview, namely the misappropriation of more than $17,000 by a burn unit therapist named Kim Beitelspacher, of Puyallup. It is also under review by the state auditor’s office.
UW internal audit describes Koches’ gaming of timesheet approvals
According to the UW internal audit division report, Koches padded her time sheets with an additional 184 hours of work she never did and got sign-offs from an unwitting superior who was not her direct supervisor. That amounted to a net overpayment of $8,987 to Koches. Her time sheets were typically okayed by a superior who lacked “firsthand knowledge” of her work hours, at times when Koches’ direct supervisor “was not available.” The other superior, a support services manager, “stated she did not question the hours Ms.Koches stated on her time sheets; she assumed they were correct.”
Tripped up by parking records
The audit report says a telltale indication of Koches’ falsification of hours worked was her inability to “provide adequate explanation” of “discrepancies between her time sheets and the parking activity log.” In some cases this may have been explained by her working remotely as “standby” supervisor on nights and weekends – reachable by beeper or cell phone to approve staff scheduling for the nuclear medicine and ultrasound units of the department – but not with respect to the 184 unworked, paid hours, the UW audit says.
Co-worker filed initial complaint
Management said it has taken corrective steps to institute missing safeguards identified in the UW internal audit. The investigation was initially prompted by a complaint to the hospital’s Human Resources office from a radiology department employee, who suspected that Koches may not have been working her scheduled hours.
The university is seeking restitution from Koches, but the amount sought may be revised upward by the state auditor’s office to account for its time evaluating the UW internal audit. The expected state auditor’s investigative report is to issued on Koches’ case as soon as sometime later this week. Beitelspacher’s case may be cited in an upcoming, broader state audit of Harborview. It is not clear yet if the King County Prosecutor’s Office will file criminal charges in either ethics case; typically if that does occur, it is not until after any state audit findings are made public. UPDATE, 4/11/12: The State Auditor’s Office today issued its own fraud investigation report on the case. SAO reiterated the key findings of the UW internal audit but found a slightly higher net misappropriation had occurred, of $9,388. The SAO report also recommended UW Medicine recover a total of $12,460 in restitution from Koches, including $3,072 to reimburse SAO for the costs of its audit of the case. UW Medicine said in the SAO report it is seeking restitution.