August 20, 1996 in Idaho

Agency Also Blamed In Grand Theft Case ‘There Was, To Some Extent, Quite A Bit Of A Lack Of Management In Regard To Those Deposits’

By The Spokesman-Review

A judge and prosecutor put part of the blame on Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare when one of its former employees was sentenced Monday for grand theft.

Janine S. Edwards, a former secretary at the Coeur d’Alene Health and Welfare office, was accused of stealing more than $24,000 in child support payments brought to the office by parents.

On Monday, First District Judge Gary Haman sentenced the 41-year-old single mother to probation and community service after she pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft.

Despite the guilty plea, Edwards has denied stealing any of the money. Instead, she insists the money was accidentally lost.

Edwards, who worked at Health and Welfare for two years, was responsible for keeping track of and depositing child support payments into the bank.

However, she said the office was highly disorganized and she was never taught how to keep track of such large sums of money. Although she asked management for additional training, she was never given any, she said.

On Monday, Henry Madsen, Kootenai County deputy prosecutor, agreed that Health and Welfare did a poor job keeping track of its money.

“There was, to some extent, quite a bit of a lack of management in regard to those deposits,” he said. “I hope they have cleaned up house.”

Things were so poorly organized that, at one point, Edward’s supervisor was at the bank trying to cash photocopies of support checks, said Tim Gresback, Edward’s attorney.

“I think it’s fairly obvious … that the financial situation could have been a little bit more structured,” Judge Haman said.

Haman said it was unclear to him whether Edwards had actually done anything criminal. He pointed out that it appears Edwards entered an Alford plea of guilty - in which she doesn’t admit doing anything wrong - merely to spare her family the trauma of going to trial.

However, Madsen pointed out that “there was a great deal of money taken and it wasn’t just one time.”

Most of the missing $24,000 was in checks that were never cashed. The state has been recovering that money by having those who wrote the checks stop payment on them and write new checks.

No parents were deprived of child support payments because of the situation.

Edwards was ordered to pay $2,762 in restitution to the state for money not recovered.

, DataTimes

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