City Employee Sanctioned in Wii Heist

By Erica C. Barnett October 4, 2011

A longtime employee at the city's parks department, will pay a $1,500 fine tomorrow for improperly using a city credit card to buy video game equipment and for stealing a WiiSports console from a community center in North Seattle.

According to the settlement agreement, the employee bought 20 WiiSports systems for the city's teen and late-night community centers as part of the parks department's "Healthy Parks, Healthy You" program. Subsequently, he removed one of the systems from the Meadowbrook community center and reported that it had "disappeared." Additionally, the employee used his official city credit card to buy an XBox 360 gaming system with Kinect, a nunchuk controller, and a WiiMotion Plus---none of which ever turned up at any teen center he supervised.

When Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission staff questioned the employee, the charges continue, he "did not provide truthful information," telling staffers that all the equipment was in the Meadowbrook Community Center safe. When staffers went to the community center and opened the safe, they found it empty.

The total value of all the missing equipment: Around $820.

Stealing that much city equipment is obviously a serious offense, something both ethics and the employee acknowledge in the settlement. But the Wii heist raises a larger question: Why, at a time when the city can barely keep its community centers open, is the city spending thousands of dollars on video games? Parks department spokeswoman Dewey Potter says the department spends relatively little on the systems, which are installed primarily in teen centers with late-night hours, and notes that many (though not all) of the games the department buys are Wii Fit games designed to keep kids active.
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