Employee charged with stealing money from City of Cottage Grove

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - A 25-year employee of the City of Cottage Grove faces felony theft charges accusing her of stealing almost $13,000 over an 18 month period.

Sheila L. Smith of Cottage Grove turned herself in to Cottage Grove Police on Wednesday.

"The arrest marks the closure of the investigation and reflects the City's commitment to hold the responsible employee accountable for the crimes that were committed," City Manager Richard Meyers said.

Smith faces 12 felony counts of theft accusing her of stealing $12,882.09 between June 2011 and January 2013.

The City hired Smith as a utility clerk in 1988. She worked her way up to Senior Accounting Technician in 2002.

In January of this year, Smith was placed on administrative leave after a customer complaint about a bill uncovered discrepencies that initially appeared to be a computer programming error.

The investigation later determined that someone took advantage of a weakness in the software to embezzle funds, the city said.

Smith was let go from the city January 28, but the investigation into what allegedly took place was conducted over the course of months as forensic auditors reviewed every transaction dating back to 2007.

The City of Cottage Grove is in the process of transitioning to a new financial software system, a process that started before the theft investigation. That process should be complete in 2014, the city said.