Former county employee charged with felony theft

Morrison County authorities charged a former longtime county employee, Constance “Connie” Waytashek, with one count of felony theft, Wednesday. Waytashek had worked for the county since 1979, and resigned in January. When she resigned, Waytashek was an executive assistant in the administration office.

Morrison County Administrator Deb Gruber said the alleged theft was discovered when Waytashek’s duties and responsibilities were distributed to other staff upon her resignation received Jan. 22.  While reviewing the County Verizon cell phone account, a responsibility held solely by Waytashek, it was discovered a number of cellular phones were missing from the county’s inventory.

This discovery was reported to the Morrison County Sheriff’s office and an investigation was conducted with cooperation from the county administrator’s office.

The investigation revealed that Waytashek, while employed by Morrison County, ordered phones from Verizon during the normal upgrade cycle from February 2010 – January 2013.  She sold the phones and kept the proceeds from the sale for her personal use. Reports from Verizon indicated Waytashek had ordered and received 416 cellular devices. Of those, 73 devices are currently in use by county employees and 50 devices were in the county’s inventory.

The criminal complaint said that when Waytashek came in to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning, she brought with her a box of 15 cell phones, which she allegedly admitted to taking from the county on her last day of work. These included 13 Casio Commando cell phones valued at $450 each, a Casio G Zone Raven, valued at $250 and a Verizon Escapade valued at $350, and serial numbers on the phones confirmed all were county-owned cell phones.

Through the investigation, it was learned that government cell phone contracts work differently than those for private companies or individuals.  Upgrades are offered on lines in government accounts every 10 months at no cost to the organization.  As such, the activity wasn’t reflected on the invoices paid by the county because the upgrades were free.

“That is why the theft went undetected for a period of time; our bills were normal and no extra costs were incurred by the organization,” Gruber said.

All other responsibilities held by Waytashek during her tenure were thoroughly examined and no additional evidence of theft or wrongdoing has been discovered, said Gruber.

“This is a case of misplaced trust in a public employee and is very unfortunate,” Gruber said. “We rely on people to make responsible choices and act in good faith when doing their jobs, especially when serving the public.  I hope it’s understood this is an isolated incident and folks don’t pass judgment on those working hard every day to uphold the integrity of the organization.”

The value of all the cellphones in the investigation was placed at $6,450.

The maximum penalty for felony theft is 10 years imprisonment and/or a $20,000 fine.

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