- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nine laptop computers, a power generator, a DVD player, a BlackBerry wireless device, a color printer, a digital camera, lots of tools and a computer monitor used for watching movies were among dozens of items of Metro property found inside the home of a longtime transit worker.

“You would call it stealing, but I would say it was more like borrowing,” the employee said when confronted by investigators about the more than 70 items of transit agency property found inside his house, according to an internal report.

Click here to view a list of the recovered items(PDF)

The employee said he took the portable power generator about six years earlier because he lost power at his home during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. He said he was worried about losing power again if another storm hit.

But records show that the former employee, whose name was redacted in documents provided to The Washington Times, was never prosecuted for the borrowing spree. Citing theft among other possible charges, investigators referred the case to the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office in Prince George’s County for criminal prosecution.

But in a letter to Metro's Office of Inspector General, the prosecutor's office cited serious problems in the transit agency’s internal policies as the reason for turning down the case, documents show.

“Strict internal oversight and control measures dealing with the accounting, auditing and approval of the use of Metro equipment and funds appears to have been lacking and may have served to create an atmosphere where such behavior, although not explicitly condoned or excused, was part of an implicitly tolerated practice,” prosecutors told Metro.

Indeed, the employee apparently wasn’t alone. Not long after investigators searched the employee’s house, word spread and others in Metro’s automatic train branch began coming to work with items they also had taken home, records show.

Nancy Lineman, a spokeswoman for Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, said the decision not to prosecute was made because of “insufficient evidence,” adding that the decision was made before Ms. Alsobrooks took office.

“In consultation with the [Metro] investigators, the last administration declined to prosecute this case because of insufficient evidence,” she said. “We did not believe that we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed in this instance.”

Former Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey declined to elaborate on Ms. Lineman’s statement Wednesday.

The Times learned of the case through an internal Metro Office of Inspector General report summarizing the probe, which was obtained in response to an open records request made in February.

The employee’s name was redacted in the report because Metro said disclosure would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The report said the employee worked in Metro’s Automatic Train Control (ATC) branch.

Metro officials contacted about the report this week did not dispute the conclusions by the Prince George’s prosecutors concerning the lack of internal controls at the time.

“This IG report predates [General Manager] Rich Sarles and his team, but I can say that since 2010, we have taken a number of steps to tighten internal controls governing Metro-owned equipment and P-cards,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, referring to purchase cards.

Story Continues →