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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Suspect in thefts has record

The president of a company that provides care to people with mental disabilities allowed her daughter to manage the personal accounts of clients for four years even though her daughter had a drug conviction on her record and previously had stolen company property.

Now, that daughter, Christina A. Davis, is accused of stealing at least $25,000 from Midstream Inc. clients over the course of a few years. Her mother – and boss – says Davis recently told her she has a gambling problem, but has not recently abused drugs.

“If I discovered she was using at all she would have been fired right then and there. I don’t tolerate that,” said Diane Knutson, Midstream’s president and CEO. “She was brought in as financial manager because, quite frankly, not very many people are bright enough to do it. It’s a huge job. … She’s just really bright and really competent.”

Davis, 35, was a financial manager for Midstream Inc., a Spokane company that provides in-home assistance to 26 people with developmental disabilities. As part of the services Midstream provides to its clients, the company helps manage their finances and has access to their personal accounts.

Knutson said she rehired her daughter at Midstream to be financial manager – after Davis was convicted of possession of cocaine – only after she had been drug-free longer than a year and after Midstream had a string of other employees who failed at the task.

The case involving Davis is not the first time Midstream client money has turned up missing. A Midstream employee was dismissed in 2000 after about $10,000 in clients’ money was found to be unaccounted for, according to Department of Social and Health Services documents. Midstream reimbursed clients for missing money. Knutson said she asked that the case be prosecuted, but charges never were filed.

In the recent case, police believe Davis wrote checks to herself from the accounts of Midstream clients and had two acquaintances cash them for her.

More than 100 checks totaling more than $25,000 were cashed by the two people for Davis, according to court documents. Last week, Spokane police Detective Kirk Kimberly said new evidence indicates that Davis may have stolen an additional $30,000 from the accounts over the past few years.

“What’s out there right now are just allegations,” said Senit Lutgen, the attorney representing Davis. “I intend to stand by Ms. Davis as she’s being persecuted in the media and as she’s prosecuted in the courts.”

Robin Guevara, who worked for Knutson for 11 years until 2000, said employees long suspected Davis, who also worked at Midstream in the 1990s, of illegal activity at the business, and wondered why she was left in charge of client money when she had a history of drug abuse.

Knutson “turned a blind eye to Christy’s behavior,” Guevara said. “She felt she was rescuing her daughter, but she was just giving her permission to continue on.”

Knutson held her children to lower standards than other Midstream employees, said Guevara, who left Midstream on good terms and is now the student employment manager at Gonzaga University.

Knutson disputes the allegation, and said she fired her daughter from Midstream in the 1990s when she discovered she was using drugs. Knutson said she also has fired her son from Midstream.

But her son was not let go after he was found to be drunk several years ago by a Chewelah police officer while he was supposed to be taking care of a Midstream client. The company at the time had clients in that Stevens County town.

Knutson said that her attorney advised her not to fire her son over the incident, but that he was later fired for another reason.

“He went to treatment. He toed the line for many, many years after that,” Knutson said. “So that’s what I did – what I would have done with any other employee.”

In 1997, Davis and a man were charged with burglary after they were accused of breaking into the home of a Midstream employee and stealing a computer that belonged to Midstream. Davis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in connection with the incident.

Knutson said Davis was not working for Midstream at the time of the theft because she had been fired for abusing drugs.

Then, in December 1998, Davis was pulled over by a Spokane police officer who discovered she was wanted on an outstanding warrant. After she was arrested, her car was searched and cocaine was found, court records say.

Davis pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in April 2000, and was sentenced to 216 hours of community service. In court records, Davis wrote that she was innocent, but was afraid she would be found guilty at trial. When she failed to start performing the community service and tested positive for cocaine a month after her plea, her sentence was changed to 40 days in jail, according to court documents.

Officials with the Department of Social and Health Services said Davis’ drug conviction did not disqualify her from taking a job at Midstream.

Guevara did the financial management of client accounts at one point, and was concerned about the lack of oversight.

“There are lots of ways to work a system like that – especially when no one is paying attention,” Guevara said.

Despite the problems she saw, Guevara said she stayed at Midstream because she felt clients received good care.

“Even though I suspected all these things were happening … the client care was highly competent and that justified me staying there,” Guevara said.

Knutson said the thefts have been “probably the worst experience of my life.” She said most Midstream clients and their guardians have been supportive since theft allegations emerged. Clients will be reimbursed for all missing money, she said.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. My first concern are the consumers that we support,” Knutson said.

“I don’t care if it’s my son, I don’t care if it’s my grandchildren. I don’t care who it is. If they are in some way not treating the people that Midstream supports, the consumers, well, they’re gone. Period.”

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