Tuesday Nov 29, 2022

Former public works director resigned after credit card purchase investigation, city records show – Blaine Northern Light


By Grace McCarthy

City of Blaine records show former public works director Bernard “Bernie” Ziemianek was asked to resign July 12 after allegedly using a city credit card to purchase over $4,000 of personal items.

A question on one of Ziemianek’s purchases from a public works employee spurred the city to begin investigating the former public works director in late June, according to records obtained by The Northern Light. The investigation showed potential misuse of city funds from March to July on tools and equipment that the public works department wouldn’t have needed and were missing. Interim city manager Dave Wilbrecht asked Ziemianek to resign immediately on July 12. Ziemianek submitted his resignation letter and repaid the city the next day. The city submitted its investigation to the Washington state auditor’s office as required by law.

“The Blaine police department has not opened an investigation into this matter at this juncture,” Wilbrecht wrote in a statement. “With that being said, I cannot speculate if there will or will not be an investigation in the future.”

The city began investigating Ziemianek on June 27 when a public works employee asked city staff where to write down a $1,203 Dewalt electric concrete grinder that Ziemianek purchased on his city credit card. The employee’s name was redacted from public records due to whistleblower protection.

City finance director Daniel Heverling asked public works staff about the purchase. A public works employee said he didn’t ask Ziemianek to purchase the concrete grinder nor did he know its location. The employee also said the purchase was strange because public works doesn’t use an electric concrete grinder. Heverling emailed Ziemianek and asked about the grinder purchase but Ziemianek never responded, according to an investigation Heverling conducted.

Heverling looked at Ziemianek’s other credit card transactions and found eight purchases totaling over $7,600 from October 2021 to July 1 that were “inappropriate and odd.” Ziemianek paid the city $4,150 on July 13 for:

• A $98 brace for stand purchased on July 1;

• $597 miter saw purchased on June 30;

• $253 stand purchased on June 28;

• $1,203 Dewalt electric concrete grinder purchased on May 10;

• $983 for four building code handbooks purchased on March 8;

• $1,014 for five plumbing code handbooks purchased on March 8.

“I will reimburse the city for […] to get all of this behind me,” Ziemianek wrote in an email to Heverling. “If my math is correct, I will make a check out for $4,150.27.”

Ziemianek didn’t pay for a $2,900 Autel MaxiSys MS909 Intelligent Diagnostic tool purchased on November 28, 2021. He said former city manager Michael Jones was aware of the transaction and it was being used to fix generators, Heverling wrote in his investigation.

A public works employee said the diagnostic tool was the only purchase the department would use but it was also missing. A public works employee who works in the tool shop said he’d never seen the diagnostic tool, Heverling wrote.

Two public works employees told Heverling they didn’t need the books and the building code books would be a purchase for the planning department. A public works employee said Ziemianek could be using the books and tools for personal use because he was remodeling his home, according to the city investigation.

Another public works employee told Heverling he knew of several times when Ziemianek used city resources for personal use. Ziemianek wrote on the backup for each credit card purchase that it was needed for city use and provided specific examples.</…….

Source: https://www.thenorthernlight.com/stories/former-public-works-director-resigned-after-credit-card-purchase-investigation-city-records-show,20996

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