This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Imagine a briefcase full of cash on the sidewalk with the owner’s name on it. It’s open. People are walking by. What are the chances someone will pilfer some bills when he thinks no one’s looking?
That’s roughly what happened to the millions the public donated in an outpouring of sympathy for the families of the four Lakewood officers gunned down by Maurice Clemmons in 2009.
All told, $3.2 million in contributions flowed into the coffers of a charity created by the Lakewood Police Independent Guild. Skeeter Manos, an officer who’d insinuated himself into the finances of both the guild and the charity, had his hand in the till, embezzling $151,000 from – literally – the widows and orphans of four fellow cops.
A post-mortem of this shocking crime has been constructed by The News Tribune’s Christian Hill. Published Sunday, it details the negligence – particularly on the part of guild President Brian Wurts – that let Manos help himself to money he used for car gear, tickets to Las Vegas, electronics and other dainties.
Manos’ embezzlement is a cautionary tale for any institution entrusted with large sums of money. The police charity should have routed the money directly into a professionally managed trust fund. (It’s in one now.)
Instead, much of it wound up passing through the hands of Manos, who was treasurer of the guild and had begun skimming its funds months before Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards were gunned down in a Parkland coffee shop. The killings created an opening and Manos was poised to walk into it.
The deaths of the four had hit the Lakewood Police Department like a bomb; its officers were stunned and grieved – and simultaneously deluged with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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