A former Austin Public Library employee allegedly used a city credit card to buy at least $1.3 million worth of printer toner, which he then stole and resold for a profit, according to a city investigation released Monday.
Between October 2007 and July 2019, Randall Whited spent $1.5 million of city funds on printer toner. In the report from the City Auditor’s Office, investigators estimated that the public library system would have needed only about $150,000 in toner over that period of time.
City investigators also allege Whited used $18,000 of city funds to buy video games, virtual reality headsets, robotic vacuums and a drone for personal use.
The city said it alerted the Austin Police Department. Whited was booked into the Hays County Jail on theft charges last month, according to online records.
“We’re investigating all the allegations and we expect to work with the District Attorney’s office to resolve the matter,” Bill Hines, Whited’s lawyer, told KUT.
According to city employment records, Whited was hired in 2005 as an accounting associate with the Austin Public Library Department. One of his responsibilities included ordering office supplies.
He has been arrested on theft charges before, as far back as the 1980s, according to a search of public records.
City investigators say Whited ordered toner using City of Austin-issued credit cards, then resold the supplies. He allegedly maintained a spreadsheet with shipping information for a toner reseller, which showed that over the course of four days he sent 60 packages to the company.
The city also found security tape of Whited taking boxes of toner to his car, telling staff he was delivering the supplies to other library branches.
But after speaking with employees at other libraries throughout the city, investigators wrote that “almost all confirmed that they had very little toner on-hand, and several had not received any deliveries in months.”
The APL routinely surpassed the roughly $50,000 it put aside for office supplies each year, investigators found. In fiscal year 2017, for example, the library system spent $212,000 on office supplies, or roughly four times the amount it had budgeted for.
Yet auditors note managers failed to flag this as a problem.
Whited is accused of doctoring receipts submitted to management, sometimes hiding the fact that products were being shipped to his house. But in other cases, receipts show he was ordering and shipping supplies to his house, a fact investigators say went unnoticed by APL management.
Investigators said the fraud could be blamed, in part, on a lack of oversight of city credit card purchases. They accused two former APL managers, Victoria Rieger and Monica McClure, of approving receipts without looking them over.
“Rieger and McClure reviewed and approved purchases with missing or inappropriate shipping information, as well as purchases that did not contain a list of what items were bought,” employees with the City Auditor’s Office wrote in the report.
The city said in response it has limited the number of employees who have access to city credit cards, has given extra training to staff who have purchasing power and is considering more frequent auditing of departments.
“I believe these changes will prevent individuals with ill-intent from being able to take advantage of the internal control systems in future, and ultimately result in a more robust program for protecting the City’s assets and the public’s money," APL Director Roosevelt Weeks wrote in a statement.
In a letter responding to the allegations, APL Assistant Director Dana McBee said she took responsibility for her actions that may have led to the fraud going unnoticed.
“I am committed to ensuring the underlying issues that led to the findings in this report never happen again," she wrote. "I know I can rebuild the trust of the citizens of Austin and continue to demonstrate the value I bring to the mission of the Austin Public Library.”
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