Employees sold surplus property, kept proceeds
Some employees of Union Public Service District sold surplus property through an auction website and kept the proceeds, county officials have discovered.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper has sent a letter asking about the situation to Wilma Davis, chairwoman of the board for the district, which provides wastewater treatment service in the Cross Lanes area.
The letter says he was told employees were taking surplus property, such as a generator that had been replaced, and selling it online.
A private citizen told him about the situation, he said.
"We just don't allow this," Carper said. "There are laws on the books dealing with surplus property."
County Engineer John Luoni said the equipment sold on eBay had been taken out of service.
"It had been replaced by more modern equipment," he added. "But the equipment taken out of service still had value."
Luoni compared the situation to purchasing a new car. When people buy new cars, they typically trade in the old ones.
Luoni was unsure exactly how much the equipment was sold for but estimated it brought in excess of $10,000. He also didn't know how many employees were involved.
"Whether it's $10,000 or $10, it's too much," Carper said. "This is government property and it doesn't belong to private people."
During a brief phone interview, Davis said the board had taken steps to recoup the money from the employees. She would not say exactly how the money was being recouped, adding that it was through "restitution." She said she didn't know exactly how many employees were involved.
Davis requested time to review Carper's letter as well as the file on the issue. She then failed to return calls seeking further comment.
Carper said he heard about the surplus property sale a couple of months ago and immediately asked county staff to look into the matter.
He learned that the board did not have a policy prohibiting employees from selling surplus property for personal profit, Carper said. The board passed such a policy during a recent meeting, he added.
Carper wants to ensure there are no further occurrences and has asked the state Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion.
"And I want to remind every other agency that they can't do this," he said. "But I'd think they already know that.
"You shouldn't have to have a rule that says you can't do this."
Carper has invited all of the PSD board members to a future commission meeting to discuss the situation, he said. The Kanawha County Commission appoints them.