Thursday, August 16, 2001

Theft allegations jolt support agency

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Accusations of theft in office lodged against a 15-year employee have “devastated” employees of the Butler County Child Support Enforcement Agency, said Doug Duckett, county personnel director.

        “People are taking it very hard. People respected Bea. People are shocked and some people are devastated,” Mr. Duckett said Wednesday, a day after agency employees were informed that Beatrice Watson, 34, of Hamilton, had been arrested on six counts of theft in office.

        The charges involve about $3,000 to $4,000, Mr. Duckett said.

        Questions were referred to Mr. Duckett because the agency's director, Dan Cade, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

        The charges against Ms. Watson are “based on evidence that she has improperly written six checks from a (child-support enforcement agency) account, which were then deposited to her own account,” according to an e-mail that was sent by the agency to employees Tuesday.

        The agency is reviewing its accounting procedures as well as double-checking other money matters in which Ms. Watson was entrusted.

        Arrested at her home Monday, Ms. Watson is free on bond. She is on unpaid leave awaiting a disciplinary hearing next week, Mr. Duckett said.

        The misappropriated funds were discovered Friday, after a secretary reviewing a bank statement saw canceled checks made out to Ms. Watson, Mr. Duckett said.

        “We called the sheriff's department in right away,” he said. “It was instantly obvious that something was seriously wrong.”

        Ms. Watson was a collections supervisor who was phasing out the account whose funds went to her bank account, Mr. Duckett said.


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