State Probe Finds Job-Selling At Western State Investigation Could Lead To Criminal Charges; Employees Suing Officials, Supervisors
A supervisor at the Western State Hospital kitchen and dining room forced at least one employee to pay for her job and loaned several workers money at crushing interest rates, according to state investigators.
A yearlong state probe also found that a food-service manager ordered steak, shrimp, oysters and other expensive foods for his own consumption, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Friday.
The newspaper based its story on confidential state reports, transcripts from investigators’ interviews with employees and other documents it had obtained.
Hospital supervisor Pat Terry was in a meeting Friday and not immediately available for comment on the allegations.
But a spokeswoman at the Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the mental-health facility, confirmed an investigation had been conducted into matters “ranging from personnel issues to possible criminal activity.”
“When that’s sorted out,” spokeswoman Kathy Spears said, the Pierce County prosecutor’s office “will determine whether any criminal activity occurred.”
In the meantime, she said, “some employees are on home assignment.”
The investigation, which lasted from March 1994 until January, was prompted by “employees who came forward,” Spears said.
She said she could not say whether the problem involved a few individuals or reflected fundamental problems at the hospital.
At least 20 employees have hired Tacoma attorney Ralph Seeley to sue Western State administrators and supervisors. Seeley said Thursday his suit will allege that hospital officials knew about the problems for years but failed to stop them. Calls to his office Friday went unanswered.
According to the records obtained by the newspaper:
At least one food-service worker told agents from the DSHS Office of Special Investigations that she paid $200 to longtime Western State employee Rosemary Murphy to help her get a job. Other employees said co-workers had admitted to them - but not to state officials - that they had paid Murphy as much as $500 for their kitchen jobs.
The investigation substantiated jobselling allegations against Murphy, according to a Jan. 25 case summary from agents that was routed to Carol Hernandez, head of the state Mental Health Services Division.
Some employees also told OSI agents they borrowed money from Murphy at interest rates as high as 20 percent per month and repaid her thousands of dollars in interest.
DSHS employees are forbidden from conducting personal business on state time.
Murphy, a hospital employee since 1978, told the newspaper Thursday she had done nothing wrong.
OSI agents reported they did substantiate an allegation that food service manager Ed Judie had sometimes ordered steak, shrimp, oysters and other expensive foods for his personal consumption.
Kitchen employees told investigators Judie often made himself meals in the hospital kitchen using food - including steak and seafood - paid for by the state.
Patients got steak only at Christmas, and are never served seafood, they said.
Judie, who has an unlisted number, could not be reached for comment Friday.
But The News Tribune said he wrote Gov. Mike Lowry a few weeks ago alerting him to possible problems at Western State. In the letter, Judie said part of his job was to test hospital food to make sure it was OK for patients.
Cook supervisor Tom Budrick was placed on administrative leave several months ago while investigators looked into allegations that twice, after on-thejob arguments, he assaulted employees after work.Reached by telephone Friday, he said he had been advised by DSHS not to talk to reporters.
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