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You Paid for It: Lost and not found

You Paid for It: Lost and not found

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Jul 14, 2011

Clark County, NV (KTNV) - Lost, stolen or otherwise unaccounted for there are all kinds of things you and I bought that are MIA.  Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears tracked down data from government agencies all over Southern Nevada, and now, she reveals what you paid for that they can't find. 

A $7,500 density gauge, a $4,000 radio and a $1,600 laptop.

What do all these things have in common?  They're lost and not found.

Darcy: "The City of Henderson lost a $10,000 radiation detector."
Taxpayer Jason Alvey: "How do you lose a $10,000 radiation detector?  Where would you lose it?"

Though no one's immune to loss or theft, we count on our government agencies to keep track of what we pay for. 

So Contact 13 got lists of missing items from government agencies across the valley: Las Vegas, Clark County, Henderson, North Las Vegas Police and Fire and UMC. Taxpayer and 30-year Las Vegas resident Terry Wilsey thinks the "Strangest one is lost police badges."

North Las Vegas is missing two.

UNLV student Jeckster Rico said, "The patrol bicycle's kind of funny.  I don't know how someone would lose that."

City of Las Vegas Detention and Enforcement claims that loss.

"What doesn't surprise me, but of course is disturbing, is all the electronics," Wilsey added.

From laptops to digital cameras to GPS devices, the stuff the government has lost reads like a list for a shopping spree at an electronics store.  The only difference here is in most cases, you paid for it, twice. The list from the City of Las Vegas is all electronics.   In the last year and a half, they lost eight digital cameras ranging from $200 Nikons to a $1700 Sony video camera.

They wouldn't grant us an interview, saying the short lists speaks for itself.  But they did send a written statement to say though "the city strives to account for 100-percent of its assets... It's virtually impossible" and they're "only missing $7400 in a total inventory of $79 million."

"This is like a feather falling off of an ostrich," said Commissioner Tom Collins about the county's list. 

In the past 18 months, they seem to have lost only eight items: laptops, desktop computers and printers strangely with the same $7400 value as the city's missing property.

"Every dollar is important, but quite frankly I'm a little bit surprised that it's not a longer list than this," said County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

"Granted it's a huge business that you're basically running, but it's still paid for by the taxpayer dollars, so we have an obligation to make sure that our equipment and our property is tracked," added County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.

North Las Vegas Police use a bar code tracking system for their stuff.

"Taxpayers paid for this.  It's important equipment.  We need the equipment," said Sgt. Tim Bedwell.

In the last year, some of the stuff they've lost includes a ballistic helmet, digital cameras, GPS devices, a $400 breath tester and two police badges.

"Badges and uniform items we get very concerned about because of the fact that people do impersonate police officers sometimes and we don't want to help facilitate that," Sgt. Bedwell said.

They conduct Internal Affairs investigations every time department property goes missing. 

The most expensive item they recently lost was a $4200 police radio.

"Officers have to have radios, so that would be replaced and that would come out of our operating funds, so actually taxpayers are gonna pay for that," said Sgt. Bedwell.

We asked them to give themselves a report card.

"I think we're gonna get an A for keeping track of stuff.  I think we're gonna get a B+ for having everything."

On a larger scale, the State of Nevada gets a big, fat "F" for failing to even keep track of their stuff.

"I think that's a serious issue," said Wilsey.

The state has no database of missing items and says to find out what's unaccounted for, they'd have to go through more than 20,000 documents by hand, and that's just for the past two years.

"I think that people are just not paying attention to what's actually going on inside the division and supervisors don't really care," said Rico.

The City of North Las Vegas admits to shoddy record-keeping. Last year, following an alleged inside theft of more than $20,000 in park maintenance equipment, a December audit found "city properties were not formally tracked to ensure all equipment and tools were properly accounted for." 

To date, there is still no formal process in place.  The only thing they could tell us about were five stolen manhole covers, some of which were returned after the thief tried to pawn them at a recycling yard. 

North Las Vegas Fire has lost two radios this year, costing taxpayers $11,600 to replace.

"How do you feel about the fact that you paid for it?" Spears asked taxpayer Jason Alvey.

"Disturbed... that I paid for it and I'm gonna have to pay for it again.  That's money out of my pocket.  And as it is in this economy it's a hard time to feed my family and take care of my bills let alone cover the government for losing stuff."

We also got a list from UMC of taxpayer-funded hospital property that's gone missing.

Their biggest ticket item was a $2,500 employee embezzlement last summer involving a county vehicle and gas card.  Two patients walked out with thousand-dollar telemetry boxes.  There are also missing prescription drugs, stolen furniture including a television, and money missing from cash drawers and a bank bag that was in the safe.  Telemetry units cost between $890 and $1,500.00. The amount involved in the employee embezzlement was $2,555.56. $6,036.00 is an estimated dollar figure of the total value of the lost/stolen items for UMC in 2010.

There's still more to come on this topic. 

We're waiting for Metro's list of lost and not found items and plan to have that in a future Contact 13 "You Paid For It" investigation.

The City of North Las Vegas released the following statement:
"The City of North Las Vegas is self-insured and only carries liability, not property loss.

Roadway Operations is the only division in Public Works that maintains a written inventory.  However, Division Managers are responsible for tracking supplies and other goods ordered by their division.  Usually, goods are ordered for specific jobs and are used as soon as they come in.  With the City's P-Card program, there is little need to maintain large inventories as Division Managers can authorize purchases at local stores up to $2,500 and therefore expedite work.  Stolen/lost or missing items are reported to management and an Incident report is completed and passed onto Risk Management.  City Property Damage is reported by Incident Reports along with Police Reports.  If vehicle damage is involved, a copy of the report is given to Fleet Operations.

Monitoring efforts are routinely performed at various levels, including the City Manager's Office and Risk Management as well as within the Public Works Dept. to watch for unusual or suspicious spending items based on monthly P card statements.

At this time it has been determined that the previous Risk Management folks didn't keep good records and because most of those people have been laid off, the information outside of monthly P card statements cannot be properly tracked."

The City of Las Vegas released the following statement:
The city of Las Vegas strives to account for 100 percent of its assets.  While accomplishing this is virtually impossible for any organization, the city’s missing inventory is about $7,400 in a total physical inventory of $79 million.  This translates to less than 1/100 of 1 percent, or .01 percent.  This is well within acceptable accounting standards.

North Las Vegas Fire released the following statement:
The statement below relates to inventory for the City of North Las Vegas.  Fire and Police independently track their own inventory so that's why we were able to get lists from each.

The City of Henderson sent the following statement:
Henderson makes every effort to be good custodians of the equipment and resources in the city.  We are currently in the middle of a very aggressive, multi-year implementation of a comprehensive computerized asset management system. 

When complete, the program will allow us to monitor assets city wide and will ultimately be used to track everything from trees, park benches, and street signs to light poles, water meters, oil filters and other equipment and resources.

We believe this program will help us be even more accountable in our efforts to effectively manage our resources.


Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.