After discovering an issue involving a city employee using some Westerville Senior Center funds for gambling, Westerville city and Westerville Senior Association leaders say the incident was an isolated one that will be prevented by changes in procedure.

One city employee's job was terminated and another person resigned after it came to light that an employee had twice taken, then replaced $500 in senior center funds.

According to an inter-office memo from Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler, the department was made aware of the situation in early January, when the employee in question reportedly told another employee about taking money from the senior center's safe.

By Jan. 12, both the employee and a manager had been placed on administrative leave while the department conducted an internal investigation.

The funds taken were not public money, but came from fundraising efforts by the Westerville Senior Association, a non-government entity that works closely with the parks department.

During the course of the investigation, the employee reportedly admitted to taking the money, but claimed all of it had been returned. According to city spokeswoman Christa Dickey, Westerville officials did not find any evidence of missing funds.

The city investigation determined that the manager noticed a discrepancy in the safe, asked the involved employee for an explanation and was told the truth.

The employee's action was deemed grounds for termination while the manager decided to submit his resignation, which was accepted.

Auler said he's happy with how the situation was handled, and has confidence in new measures that have been put into place to avoid a repeat of the problem.

"At the end of the day, from my perspective, once I was informed of it, we moved really quickly to address this issue," he said. "We have made changes to the process, and we've been working with the senior association to make changes on their side as well. Those changes have been implemented and we're still working with them to implement a few more changes just to make sure the process is clean and record-keeping is as clean as possible."

Those changes include a computerized point-of-sale setup instead of cash exchanging hands, and Senior Center Advisory Board chairman Rick Heston said less senior center money will be handled by city employees.

"We're not handing (money) over to somebody else to put in a safe or something," Heston said. "We'll do that ourselves."

Auler said he has faith in both departments and believes the issue was a one-time problem.

"This was an isolated situation," he said. "I'm pleased that we acted quickly and we identified the issue and dealt with it."

Heston agreed, saying it was a "pretty simple" process that won't damage the city and senior center's relationship.

"We've had a good working relationship with them all these years," he said, "so I certainly wouldn't go against that grain."

The incident was reported to Westerville police, but no charges have resulted at this time. Neither the city nor the senior center specifically requested that charges be filed, Dickey said.

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