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Putting those you trust in charge

Editor's note: This column is in response to the story "Pa. woman pleads guilty to taking $1M from EMS provider." A former ambulance committee chairwoman was found guilty of stealing money over a 10-year time period. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh says there is a lesson that can be taken away from this unfortunate act, for all of us.

This story is already pretty bad. In times of dire economic times, having an inside person fleece the finances of the EMS service is like a punch in the gut. It's already a challenge to make it all work, without malfeasance rearing its head.

There's got to be more than this though. According to the story, this has been happening since 2000. In another words, she had been embezzling about $100,000 every year for Ten. Long. Years. Wow.

I'm also noting that she was chair of a committee, implying there were at least a few folks who were looking at the books right? I don't understand this part. In organizations such as this one, there should be layers of control and accountability that holds everyone responsible for their jobs, from line personnel to the Chief and the Board of Directors.

Financial audits are regularly conducted to ensure the financial integrity of the organization. There are enough regulations placed upon health insurers like Medicare and Medicaid to help (or hurt, as the case may be) toe the legal line. In other words, how did this happen for so long?

Seriously, I'm not pointing fingers, or even laying blame — it's just that there are probably lessons to be learned from this, and those lessons could be applied by others who potentially face similar situations where controls are not in place or are overlooked. I'm hoping that over time we can learn from such mistakes.

In the end, it's sad that we are not immune to unethical behavior that affects other workplaces. Because we provide an essential service to our communities, it's that much more important to have key folks in places of trust — that we can actually trust.

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