Former Malheur County employee charged with stealing office cash

VALE – A long-time employee of the Malheur County Planning Department has been charged with theft and official misconduct, accused of stealing an estimated $2,250 in cash.

Jamie L. Willet, 50, of Fruitland, faces four counts of second-degree theft and four counts of official misconduct. The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and fines. Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe charged her in a criminal information filed in Malheur County Circuit Court on Wednesday, April 10.

Willet, paid $4,472 a month, had been the county’s assistant planning director since 2015 and was the interim planning director last summer. The new director, Eric Evans, triggered the investigation when he arrived in late August and discovered a cash shortage, according to the affidavit of Det. Ryan Mills of the Oregon State Police.

An audit covering February 2016 until November 2018 found $2,450 not accounted for, including $2,250 in cash.

In October, according to Mills’ affidavit, Evans twice searched Willet’s desk but found no checks or cash. Six days after the last search, “Jamie claims to have found $250 cash in her desk.”

During an interview last December, Willet “advised she took money home with her from work in bags” and used it for “her personal groceries and gas,” according to the affidavit.

“Willet stated she had money problems and bills are always tight in her home,” according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said Willet wrote a three-page apology to county officials, and included that document as part of the court filing.

“I admit I borrowed some money to help get me through a difficult times in my life,” according to the handwritten statement. “I will do absolutely anything to make things right.”

County officials said she was placed on leave Nov. 6 and terminated Jan. 3.

Willet is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, April 23, to be arraigned.

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