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Chapter 5. Explore > Case Study: The Trusted Employee

Case Study: The Trusted Employee

MARY Head Bookkeeper, reports to Erwin King
ERWIN KING Controller, reports to company president
TIM Sales Manager
The company has about 300 employees.
Sales Manager Tim, dressed for travel, visits head bookkeeper Mary in her office to get a travel advance.
MARY: You know the rules, Tim. No cash advance for a trip until you turn in your expense report for the last one.
TIM: Mary, I’d love to. But my plane leaves in 45 minutes. C’mon, if Erwin hassles you about it, I’ll take the heat.
MARY: Okay. But I want both reports the day you get back.

[Mary begins counting out cash into Tim’s palm.]

Three hundred, three-fifty, four hundred. Sign here for the cash advance.
TIM: [Puts the cash in his wallet and picks up his bags.] Gotta run. Is your mother any better?
MARY: About the same. But at least she’s home now. Thanks for asking, Tim. [Two clerks Vicki and Doris enter—the wall clock reads 8:40—as they go quickly to their desks.]
VICKI: Mr. King’s not in yet, is he?
MARY: He has been for half an hour. When he says 8:30, he means at your desk and working—not just arriving at work.
DORIS: The sales people come and go whenever they feel like it.
MARY: You know they travel and work late hours.
DORIS: Show up early…work late. Is that how you made it from clerk to head bookkeeper?
MARY: It didn’t hurt. Doris, do you have last month’s expense reports and cash advance records? I can’t find them.
DORIS: Mr. King took them out of the file yesterday.
ERWIN: [from the doorway of his of office.] Mary, will you step in here for a moment?
MARY: Right away, Mr. King.
ERWIN: [to Mary as she enters and closes the door] Please have a seat. As you know, Price Waterhouse comes in next week for its half-year audit, and…
MARY: …If you are concerned about Tim’s overdue expense report, I just spoke with him this morning. He knows that Thursday is the absolute deadline.
ERWIN: Actually, I’m more concerned about other expense reports. Mary, you’ve worked for me enough years to know what a stickler I am for expense reporting. And, that my first rule is they have to be done in ink.
MARY: I keep after them, Mr. King, but lately…
ERWIN: There are four or five examples here of questionable erasures, mostly for cash advances. Ring any bells?
MARY: [quickly] No.

[As they stare at each other for a moment, Mary starts to sob.]

Yes…it rings a lot of bells. My mother’s first hospital stay was a financial disaster. But this last one wiped me out. I borrowed to the limit from banks, relatives, even friends. I was still short of what I needed to check her out of Huntington Memorial and bring her home.
ERWIN: So your answer was dipping into petty cash?
MARY: Yes.
ERWIN: How much?
MARY: Exactly seven hundred dollars. I planned to replace it, a hundred a month, until it was all back. I know you’re disappointed.
ERWIN: Shocked, is more like it. You paid your dues here, studied evenings, moved up to head our bookkeeping unit. You’ve been the model of how our employees should perform…up to this point.
MARY: It won’t happen again.
ERWIN: This is extremely serious. I can’t ignore it. Mary, you violated the basic trust a controller has to have in a bookkeeper.
MARY: I’ll earn that trust back, you’ll see…
ERWIN: My inclination, frankly, is dismissal. But in view of your hard work and loyalty for seven years, I’ll talk with Henry, the president, before making a decision. Don’t discuss our conversation with anyone. I’ll let you know in the morning.
MARY: [as she leaves Erwin’s office] Yes sir.



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