WRAL Investigates

$15M in state property lost, stolen, damaged since 2004

Posted February 10, 2010
Updated April 5, 2012

WRAL Investigates
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— More than $15 million worth of state property has been lost, stolen or damaged since 2004, according to public records obtained by WRAL Investigates.

Missing property, state property graphic State property gets gone

While some cases prompted criminal investigations, many of the losses are gone for good. Last year, state agencies reported nearly $2.4 million in lost property, which breaks down the following way:

  • Damaged: $942,000
  • Stolen: More than $860,000
  • Misused: Approximately $500,000
  • Embezzled: $34,000
  • Arson: $2,300

Any time state property gets lost, stolen or damaged, agencies are required to fill out an incident report, which goes to the State Bureau of Investigation for review.

WRAL Investigates reviewed the records from 2009, which shows three key areas of loss. The first key area is missing equipment. Last year's reports show the North Carolina Department of Correction couldn't account for more than $300,000 in office equipment, such as computers, copiers, printers and sorters.

“Things that are missing here are things at the end of their life (such as) 6- (to) 8-year-old computers,” said DOC spokesman Keith Acree.

Equipment values are listed as retail, not depreciated, according to Acree. For instance, a missing Tandy 3000 computer made in the 80s is valued at more than $1,300. Still, there is no record the computers ever made it to state surplus as they should. Outdated or not, Acree says DOC Secretary Alvin Keller took serious note of the long list.

“The first time he saw these, he didn't like what he saw,” Acree said.

Acree cited management changes and poor record keeping for the losses. He said he doesn't think staff stole state property, but he acknowledged that it could happen.

“It could and that's why we're concerned about this, and we're stressing to employees who have the equipment manager duty how important it is to keep on top of this,” he said.

A second level of loss was misused property. While some cases were prosecuted for embezzlement, others were treated as serious misunderstandings. Records show Wachovia Bank sent a $25,000 check for a program to Fayetteville State University in September 2008. That check was wrongly forwarded to the home of former Chancellor Willis McCleod.

McCleod deposited the check, which included his name, into his personal account. He told WRAL Investigates that he "thought it was from Wachovia investments," but he never called to verify. Months later, Fayetteville State called looking for the money. McCleod returned it, with interest, and no charges were filed.

Yet another high dollar loss for the state comes from damaged property. For the Department of Transportation, much of that damage happens on the side of the road.

“Trees are considered as assets,” said DOT engineer Ted Sherrod.

The DOT has reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in tree losses, mostly from businesses clearing around signs in the right of way.

“We'll have about as many as 50 cases a year,” Sherrod said.

For instance, in Moore County, a man who owns storage units along U.S. Highway 1 cleared out the state-owned woods near his business, but he failed to get the required permits. DOT estimated the damage at more than $174,000, but settled for $40,000.

Whether items are damaged, lost or stolen, there is a public cost.

“And ultimately, it’s about being good stewards of the taxpayer money,” Acree said.

17 Comments

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  • Bendal1 Feb 11, 3:03 p.m.

    It's a stupid law that requires the state to value old worn out equipment at the original purchase price. Has no one heard of depreciation? That's basic economics, people.

    Similarly, including trees cleared without a permit in state right of way as a "lost" asset is silly. I can see if the trees had been planted by DOT, or the flower beds you see along the interstate, but mature trees? Come on.

    Oh, the old cones and barrels you see on the side of the road are contractor owned, not the state. The state owns a few for maintenance purposes but not the ones on a project.

  • dazrite Feb 11, 1:00 p.m.

    And true to state mentality....our tax dollars are now going to be spent on chasing down and accounting for a twenty year old piece of junk that should have been at surplus 15 years ago. We'll spend far more than the replacement cost could ever have been.

  • miketroll3572 Feb 11, 11:54 a.m.

    Just another story designed by the right-wing owners of WRAL.

    Huh? Where have you been. Wral is so far left its not even funny! Still, sound like there are a bunch of looters in state employment!

  • mebgirl1984 Feb 11, 11:51 a.m.

    "Just another story designed by the right-wing owners of WRAL" --BeenHereSince67-

    WRAL and right wing used in the same sentence! Surely, you jest. Got to be the funniest thing ever said on this site. I too, one day, saw Bill O'Reilly and Scott Matthews one day sharing notes with one another...........badunk...slap to the head....back to reality.......BeenHere, that was a good one! Got any others?

  • joco cruiser Feb 11, 11:31 a.m.

    If people had any idea how many state workers get free supplies for their children for school a Tandy computer would never even be mentioned.

    Supplies, equipment, etc. are taken on a daily basis. DOT has so many computers just sitting around it takes almost a complete year to find one missing.

  • Caveman93 Feb 11, 11:16 a.m.

    I say we need a bigger local government to stop these losses. Whatcha think?

  • westral Feb 11, 10:31 a.m.

    When I worked for DOT, I was responsible for fixed assets. When I got the report that had been done the previous year, nothing matched whatsoever. The department had no clue at all to what they had or what they had gotten rid of. It was ridiculous. This was no different than any other thing I was involved with at the DOT. Even worse, the management could care less as they rake in their $100,000 salaries.

  • beachboater Feb 11, 10:10 a.m.

    This is a meaningless report. The valuation process is flawed. A long list of items listed as Appalachian State University included, someone broke the mirror in the men's restroom. This isn't state loss, it's vandalism or plain accidents. What if the hangers failed. Not much value in these reports.

    Not knocking WRAL, knocking the state. Just another make work report.

    Actually, the numbers are pretty small considering the total value of state property.

  • pbjbeach Feb 11, 9:52 a.m.

    BEENHERESINCE67

    I am in 100% agreement with your posting on here it nearly is always the big dogs that are the one responsibly the stealing an the fraud that takes place

  • pbjbeach Feb 11, 9:49 a.m.

    wHY DONT THE LOOK INTO AN GO AFTER THE REAL VILLIANS WITH REGARDS TO WASTE FRAUD AN ABUSE OF THE TAXPAYERS DOLLARS WHY DON THE PERFORM A SERIOUS TYPE AUDIT OF THE NCDOT AN ITS CONTRACTING CONTRACTORS PAYMENTS MADE IN THE FORM OF MONTHLY ESTIMATE PAYMENTS AN THE LINE ITEMS IN THESE CONTRACTS THAT ARE BEING ALLOWED TO BE PAID FOR THAT WHEN IN REALITY THESE LINE ITEMS ACCORDING TO THE NCDOT SPECEFICIATIONS SHOULDN'T HAVE EVER BEEN ALLOWED TO BE PAID FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE THANK YOU

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