Security knew tax commissioner vault was open

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Before someone broke into the Augusta Municipal Building and stole more than $25,000 from the tax office, a nighttime janitor discovered the vault open and reported it to security.

Steven Kendrick said a longtime employee left the vault open.  Special
Special
Steven Kendrick said a longtime employee left the vault open.

But, authorities said Wednesday, no one appeared to act on the Friday night tip, and during the weekend someone smashed the first-floor glass window of the tax office, entered the safe and pried open several locked drawers containing cash and checks.

Authorities would not identify the security officer who got the tip, but Marshal Steve Smith described him as a part-time employee of his office who worked at night.

Officials were attempting to contact him Wednesday, Smith said.

Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Tony Walden said the case was "still under investigation" and would not say whether the man had been interviewed.

Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick suspended a manager in his office Wednesday for a week without pay for leaving the vault open, which he described as an "oversight."

Kim Wilkins, an employee since 1979, was working late Friday to finish up before the holiday weekend and was the last person to leave.

Kendrick stressed he has no reason to believe she was involved in the crime.

"None whatsoever," he said. "She's a good lady. You don't make it 30 years over there and get to be a manager without having something good going for you."

Kendrick described her as distraught over what happened, but he said he had to discipline her to set an example.

"I know she feels bad," he said. "I had a policy, she knew what the policy was, she made a mistake."

He made mistakes of his own, Kendrick said at a Wednesday morning news conference. Both he and law enforcement officials admitted the Municipal Building's security, which is supervised by the Marshal's Office, had failed.

"This building, honestly, we thought was more secure based on the fact that we are here and there are security guards here," Kendrick said. "That was a mistake on my part to make that assumption. We are going to rectify that."

For his part, Smith said he met with Kendrick earlier and they discussed changes to the building's security, including the possibility of increasing night patrols and surveillance.

"Our focus has primarily been daytime security," he said. "Obviously, as a result of this, we have to shift our priority to nighttime hours."

In a public statement earlier Wednesday, Kendrick said the manager was unable to remember whether the vault was left open or closed Friday night. It's typically closed about 5 p.m. each work day, but the routine was off because of staff staying late.

An armored car picked up the previous day's deposit Friday afternoon, Kendrick said. The money stolen -- $25,308 plus checks representing an unknown amount -- came from Friday's deposit.

Kendrick said his staff should have been more diligent.

"I take full responsibility for what has happened because it happened in our office on my watch," he said.

The break-in went undetected until Tuesday despite a building alarm system, security cameras and a weekend patrol by the Marshal's Office.

Authorities confirmed there is no footage of the break-in, but they are still reviewing video to determine whether any of the cameras caught suspicious behavior. The burglar, or burglars, did not enter any other part of the building, Smith said.

Reach Adam Folk and Johnny Edwards at (706) 724-0851

Comments (88) Add comment
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Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 01/21/10 - 03:11 am
0
0
inside job.. no doubt about

inside job.. no doubt about it.. or we have some psychic criminals out there... and in that case they should just play the lottery.

cajunnana2000
2
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cajunnana2000 01/21/10 - 03:20 am
0
0
Security, Security,security

Security, Security,security

DAMY46
0
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DAMY46 01/21/10 - 04:56 am
0
0
They need to fire Kendrick.

They need to fire Kendrick.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 01/21/10 - 05:15 am
0
0
DAMY46.. Kendrick is an

DAMY46.. Kendrick is an elected official.. so voters will have that opportunity

LouLou
6
Points
LouLou 01/21/10 - 05:27 am
0
0
You JUST DON'T "FORGET" or

You JUST DON'T "FORGET" or "OVERLOOK" something of this importance. NO NO NO. No slap on risk with "tsk" "tsk"

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 01/21/10 - 05:41 am
0
0
There was no excuse for this

There was no excuse for this vault to have been left unlocked. Is there a protocal on who has access to the vault? Closing procedures? At the very least an alarm needs to be installed to alert if the vault is left open.

Riverman1
86855
Points
Riverman1 01/21/10 - 06:16 am
0
0
This started with a small

This started with a small blurb and continues to get bigger. It reminds me of Watergate. It's becoming apparent it was an inside job. Check the employess, find out who needed money, who was likely to do this, etc. Lie detectors might be interesting with that entire crew who apparently hendled lots of money.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 01/21/10 - 06:21 am
0
0
Seems like security was

Seems like security was pretty lax with the feeling of "...who would even consider breaking into this place?" being prevalent. I wonder if the safe had been forgotten and left open before, with no bad results? A possible theory, the security guard that was notified just notified an associate of the opportunity instead of notifying the marshal's office. I, of course, wouldn't accuse anyone, but there sure a lot of coincidences leading up to the discovery of this bold crime.

rhoneycutt
0
Points
rhoneycutt 01/21/10 - 06:44 am
0
0
When I had an accident in a

When I had an accident in a county owned vehicle, that I was required to drive everyday, money was deducted from my paycheck. Will this employee be held to the same standard? Fair is Fair you know !

rhoneycutt
0
Points
rhoneycutt 01/21/10 - 06:50 am
0
0
I bet the employees didn't

I bet the employees didn't forget to lock their personal cars in the parking lot.

guess who
0
Points
guess who 01/21/10 - 07:17 am
0
0
this funny a week ago a the

this funny a week ago a the city law dept ,spend all most
5 thousand,raise pure hell from eveyone, now 25,000 get
stolen no hell raise make you say huuumm,5 spend legal
are 25,000 stolen by the janitor orparttime security both
need a lie det test.

Dixieman
15973
Points
Dixieman 01/21/10 - 07:19 am
0
0
Inside job.

Inside job.

Goaliemom1987
7
Points
Goaliemom1987 01/21/10 - 07:27 am
0
0
Inside job for sure. How many

Inside job for sure. How many people would have known the safe was open? We really have some stupid people running our city!

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
9052
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 01/21/10 - 07:31 am
0
0
The Marshalls Dept wasn't

The Marshalls Dept wasn't meant to be in charge of security for the municipal building. It is an arm of the courts to serve civil papers. While they have police powers the security of the building should not be tasked to them. They are and have always been understaffed. The proper person, Mr. Kendrick has already accepted full responsiblity for the loss and as such, until the guilty parties are found and brought before the courts remains the ultimate person to blame. He is an elected official and as far as anyone's concerned the buck should stop with him. It 's his department and his safe. Blaming anyone else for the lack of securing the door is like blaming your mother in law because you have been slapped in the face by your child!

LadyCisback
4
Points
LadyCisback 01/21/10 - 07:34 am
0
0
this is the people taking

this is the people taking back the money that's theirs..

fatboyhog
2000
Points
fatboyhog 01/21/10 - 07:42 am
0
0
The people taking back the

The people taking back the money that is theirs? Yeah, I'm sure the thief(s) have regular jobs, own property, and pay taxes. Sounds to me like an opportunist who is used to getting everything free and saw the opportunity to "seize" a larger government check.

sdrwtcn
0
Points
sdrwtcn 01/21/10 - 07:43 am
0
0
Can I please be notified of

Can I please be notified of the next open safe night?

andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 01/21/10 - 07:49 am
0
0
Good thing Ms. Wilkins

Good thing Ms. Wilkins doesn't work with COMSEC she could end up in jail for being so careless.

Notreally
4
Points
Notreally 01/21/10 - 07:52 am
0
0
This is surely Obama's fault

This is surely Obama's fault right ODSers?

justus4
103
Points
justus4 01/21/10 - 07:53 am
0
0
This is just another witch
Unpublished

This is just another witch hunt for minority individuals who hold positions of management, which appears to be working in an exceptional way. So, here's the question: When will a NON-MINORITY individual in a position of management be held accountable for ANYTHING? Oh, and by the way, this practice of selective accountability is ILLEGAL, but abiding by laws appear to be something foreign to this local operation, and since there appears to be no interest in recovering the loot, "we" know who MUST be involved. Wow! It appears the rot is through & through.

AWyld1
3
Points
AWyld1 01/21/10 - 08:04 am
0
0
The only rot is in your

The only rot is in your character. Same line different article....

fatboyhog
2000
Points
fatboyhog 01/21/10 - 08:24 am
0
0
It is apparent that Justus4

It is apparent that Justus4 is a member of the entitlement crowd. $25,000 is stolen due to ineptitude and he's not upset. What do you expect from a person who's family is used to making money off the backs of others?

cricketflea
3
Points
cricketflea 01/21/10 - 08:31 am
0
0
Better go back to the janitor

Better go back to the janitor and find out who he told OTHER than the security in the building. Sounds to me like he may have told someone else about the stupidity of leaving the safe open and that someone took advantage ot it! TALK TO THE JANITOR!!!!!!

truth-now
0
Points
truth-now 01/21/10 - 08:37 am
0
0
This is inexcusable.

This is inexcusable. Kendrick must be held accountable. Thank goodness he was NOT elected Mayor...

Does_it_really_matter
1
Points
Does_it_really_matter 01/21/10 - 08:41 am
0
0
Inside job....get rid of

Inside job....get rid of everyone who knew that the vault was open. That is money that will be hard to re-coup, but with a couple of salaries gone, it should be made up in no time.

dashiel
176
Points
dashiel 01/21/10 - 08:55 am
0
0
Public service is a thankless

Public service is a thankless job and none more so than that of a tax commissioner. In my experience, Kendrick and his staff do all they can to minimize pain at tax time. These are good people. We should be focusing our attention on the thief.

windsor41
0
Points
windsor41 01/21/10 - 08:56 am
0
0
the one time the vault was

the one time the vault was open we had a breakin.funny funny.

Little Lamb
46903
Points
Little Lamb 01/21/10 - 09:02 am
0
0
The reporters who wrote this

The reporters who wrote this story ASSUME that the thief entered the building through the smashed window. A more likely scenario is that the thief is a Tax Commission employee who stayed late on Friday, took the money, damaged the small safes, and left the vault door open. Then on Monday night, he/she came back and smashed the window. Pretty clever plan, because it fooled Folk and Edwards.

getalife
4
Points
getalife 01/21/10 - 09:07 am
0
0
Inside job!!

Inside job!!

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 01/21/10 - 09:08 am
0
0
damy, i understand your

damy, i understand your aggravation but kendricks can't be fired, he's an elected official and fails under state authority. he must be impeached an removed from office

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