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December 2, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Seattle Public Utilities fires three for fixing bills

Seattle Public Utilities on Friday fired three employees and suspended a fourth for accessing their own or a family member’s utility account and adjusting their bills.

The action comes as the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission in a parallel investigation found that five SPU employees had accessed accounts and adjusted bills or payment plans in violation of city rules that prohibit city employees from using their official positions for personal gain.

The utility fired two employees in January and February for lowering their own bills and announced that it was opening an investigation in cooperation with the city auditor.

SPU spokesman Andy Ryan said the utility has since been reviewing 10 years of department billing data looking for irregularities.

The total dollar amount lost to the utility in the most recent cases is about $440, Ryan said.

SPU director Ray Hoffman said that the greater issue is the responsibility of public employees to not use their positions to benefit themselves, family or friends.

“SPU takes the public’s trust seriously and expects our employees to follow the city’s Ethics Code. We are committed to a full review of department procedures and have taken strong steps to prevent misconduct,” Hoffman said.

The utility did not release the names of the fired employees. The violations range from a customer service representative who waived a $5.90 fee on her parents’ garbage bill and a $10 late payment fee, to an engineer who posted payments to his own account without actually paying the bill.

Comments | More in Government | Topics: firing, fixing bills, Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission

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