Department of EcologyAfter being accused of stealing celebration funds, environmental specialist Mary N. Lynum pled not guilty. For more than 20 years, Lynum had been employed at the Department of Ecology and until her trial, she will continue in her position while working from home.

Lynum was accused of taking almost $17,000 from a fund setup for employee celebration purposes. Lynum, age 48, was arrested by police back in February and charged with first-degree theft. Lynum who is from Spanaway, has no criminal record and at her arraignment, pled not guilty to the charge. An actual trial in the case is set for the week of May 23.

In addition to her normal duties at the Department of Ecology, Lynum had been put in charge of the Ecology Social Fund, a voluntary fund used to pay for various employee celebrations such as retirements, birthdays, promotions, and so on. For employees interested in participating, payroll deduction had been authorized by the state.

In court documents, it was learned that contributions to the fund came from 220 employees. However, sometime this past December, some individuals voiced concern in how the funds were being managed, as well as the lack of information that Lynum provided when asked.

In looking at records, it appears that a check written on the account in the amount of $80 to reimburse an employee was returned by the bank due to insufficient funds. At that point, people began asking questions. The only employee with the Department of Ecology with access to the fund account was Lynum. When asked to produce a bank statement for that account, she came up with one excuse after another.

After sitting down with a fiscal manager, Lynum finally confessed to using the celebration funds for personal reasons. She stressed that she had every intention of paying the money back but had not yet done so. After conducting a thorough investigation of the fund account, it was discovered that Lynum had taken the money between October 2015 and February 2016.

In an interview with the Lacey police, Lynum confirmed that she had in fact used the fund money to pay medical bills specifically for her daughter who is disabled. She also stated that with her wages being garnished, she simply became overwhelmed and desperate.

Since the incident, Lynum has been taken out of office and is now working from home, this according to senior communications manager, Dustin Terpening. At this time, a full investigation is being conducted by the Department of Ecology to determine if Lynum will be terminated from her job or face some type of disciplinary action. As stated by Terpening, the money stolen came from employees opposed to the actual Department. Being a voluntary fund to which employees contributed makes this case somewhat unique.