Annual audits under the last union president didn't catch any discrepancies, reported the Houston Chronicle, but the first audit under the new president found HPOU's Treasurer stealing regularly:
A retired Houston police officer and his former son-in-law were indicted Thursday on charges that they took money from the professional organization that once represented them both — the Houston Police Officers' Union.
Ronald Martin, 51, the union's former board secretary, and Houston police officer Jeff Larson, 39, are accused of stealing cash, cashing checks, using credit cards and pocketing profits from vehicle sales — all from the union's coffers, Harris County prosecutors said.
The indictments were a bitter blow to the organization, the sole bargaining agent with the city for all Houston police officers. ...
Martin and Larson were indicted on charges of misapplication of fiduciary property. Larson was also indicted on charges of theft by a public servant.
The two are accused of taking about $100,000 to $200,000 from union coffers from December 2004 to January 2008, according to Harris County District Attorney Ken Magidson.
A 31-year HPD veteran, Martin retired after he and Larson were relieved of duty in mid-January. Larson, who remains off-duty with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, has been with HPD for 16 years and was the union's treasurer.
One questions the quality of the auditor who annually declared the books in "fine shape" over the last few years. Enron had auditors too, I suppose. In that sense, it's really still a matter of trust whether Houston police officers can believe their union leadership isn't stealing their dues. Changing auditors only helps as long as top leadership shoot straight with their accountants.
The irregularities first came to light in November when HPOU conducted an internal review regarding the sale of union-owned vehicles by Martin and Larson. At the same time, Blankinship's election as the HPOU's president triggered a financial audit.
The audit identified financial breaches involving Martin and Larson, Blankinship said.
He said the union's financial state was in trouble when he took over at HPOU — which has about 4,850 dues-paying members.
Larson, as treasurer, was essentially free to disperse union funds as he saw fit, Blankinship said.
"They (former union leaders) could have done a better job at checks and balances," Blankinship said.
Former HPOU President Hans Marticiuc said the union's board members received a financial report each month.
"There was an outside audit every year. It came back that we were in fine shape," Marticiuc said. "I really think that it was a matter of trusting people."
Since taking over, Blankinship said the union hired certified public accountants to audit the books.
I was also unaware of another recent theft incident mentioned in the article:
The alleged theft is at least the second time that money from law enforcement ranks has come up missing this year.
In May, FBI agents said they were investigating the disappearance of more than $100,000 from the Houston Police Federal Credit Union.
That incident is still under investigation, said Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
Meanwhile, Kuff lets us know that the Harris County Sheriff recently created a new inspector general position "to investigate abuses at the county jail." That makes me wonder what the feds turned up during their recent week-long inspection, and whether more Houston-area law enforcement scandals may be revealed soon.