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Finance Department theft not isolated incident

June 13, 2013

An episode involving the theft of tax payments at the Walpole Finance Department earlier this year is apparently not an isolated one, as another town department has had equipment and cash stolen on three different occasions within the past two years, Walpole police and the Town Administrator confirmed this month.

The Walpole Recreation Department was burglarized twice within a two-week span in May 2011, then experienced another theft this past April. While officials vehemently insist that there is no evidence that town employees were responsible for the crimes, Walpole Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael said that no forced entry occurred in any of the three cases.

Carmichael said it’s not clear at this point if any of the three incidents are related.

“There’s certain methods of operation that are different (between the three incidents),” Carmichael said. “There’s some similarities as well,” he said.

Carmichael would not release any police reports from the cases because the investigation is ongoing. He also declined to elaborate on what specific items were stolen in each of the incidents, but he did say that cash was stolen in the first two incidents, while electronic devices and other equipment was stolen during the most recent one in April.

During the first incident, Carmichael said the thief took the cash, and left behind “a significant amount of checks” that were sitting nearby.

Each of the items stolen in all three incidents were from within the Recreation Department office, and the culprit appears to have been familiar with the building.

“We didn’t detect any forced entry,” Carmichael said.

But Town Administrator Michael Boynton and Carmichael said it is purely speculative to believe that a town employee was involved.

“I don’t have anything to suggest to me that it’s a town employee,” Boynton said.

The Walpole Times did report on the 2011 thefts, and Boynton said he informed Walpole Selectmen of the thefts during their open meetings. Boynton maintained that none of the incidents were kept secret from the public.

“It’s frustrating. It shouldn’t be happening,” Boynton said of the crimes.

Carmichael said the police department is still conducting interviews and there are a few leads.

In May, Town Meeting approved the purchase and installation of security cameras in several municipal buildings, including the Recreation Department at Blackburn Hall, as crime deterrents.

Earlier this year, Karen Connolly, an employee in the Finance Department, resigned after allegedly stealing residents’ tax bills as they came into her department. The news of her crime, and her subsequent resignation, were kept quiet at Town Hall and were not disclosed to the public until a whistleblower reported the incident to 180 in March.

At the time that Connolly’s crime was first publicly reported, one month before the April theft in the Recreation Department, Boynton told The Walpole Times that it was an “isolated incident.”

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