Malden city officials and police have been investigating the apparent theft of thousands of dollars from the city treasurer for at least the past month, the mayor's office confirmed today.
Officials did not reveal the missing amount, but an unidentified source told the Malden Evening News that the sum is in the four- to five-figure range.
Mayor Gary Christenson said he was informed of the probe “a few weeks before the new year” by then out-going mayor Richard Howard, but could not reveal a more specific timetable without jeopardizing the investigation.
“It was more, at that time, an 'FYI' for me,” he said. “That the mayor's office was involved (in the investigation) and that he was...working with the police department on it.”
Christenson said he met with the treasurer's office Friday morning to provide assistance, and was hoping the Malden city council would move quickly to hire a chief fiscal officer to oversee the budget. Christenson said he had called council President Judy Bucci about the issue Friday afternoon.
The board moved to adopt that model of fiscal oversight when former treasurer Frank Vacca resigned two years ago.
“When (Vacca) left, we didn't replace the treasurer because we proposed moving to the new model...to oversee the entire city budget,” Christenson, who served as the city council from Ward 1 at the time, said.
“What prompted us to go to that model was...there was some debate as to who really was responsible for the overall budget, and there were no clear answers. Some thought it was the treasurer, others thought it was the controller, some people thought it was the assessor.
“You really need someone on top,” he said.
Christenson said that the treasurer's office now had cameras installed around the perimeter of the treasurer's office, and that he had made a formal request that no one be admitted into the treasurer's office that doesn't work there.
“I know it's not a perfect world – I'm sure someone's relative might come and visit one day,” he said. “If they do, they're accompanied around the office; not left alone, in other words.”
This is not the first time taxpayer money has been stolen from city hall: in 2008, former treasury employee Gia DeSantis was arrested and later plead guilty to stealing over half a million dollars from the city's coffers.
As many as 125 checks were distributed to eight other non-employees, according to a report in the Boston Globe at the time.