An investigative report released Wednesday shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift.
The report found that former city staff specialist Natwaina Clark, 33, charged her city-issued credit card 136 times for roughly $61,000 in unauthorized charges, used her bosses’ cards at least 36 more times for an additional $31,000, and spent nearly $900 on a coworker’s card five times between November 2015 and March 2017.
The report also finds department heads acted negligently, allowing city funds to be misspent.
Documents attached to the report show Clark, who was hired in August 2015, funneled roughly $41,000 to her personal PayPal account, linked to her bank account, and that $8,500 of it went toward a Brazilian butt lift. The cosmetic surgery procedure uses fat from one part of the body to augment one’s buttocks.
PayPal transactions were itemized as “decor,” “storage bins,” and “holiday banners.”
Purchases also show Clark paid $2,413 to Cox Communications, spent $1,011 at CVS, $739 at Sam’s Club for mostly food items, $680 to her personal SunPass account and bought a “large” TV.
Clark, whose salary was $33,500, was fired from the city March 21, while on a cruise-ship vacation, the report said. She was arrested March 28 and charged with larceny and scheme to defraud, both felonies.
The auditor’s report paints Clark as an intelligent worker who was eager to help, and who could legitimately have earned promotions had she not made illegitimate purchases even during her new-employee probation.
The report said Clark explained her “likely noticeable condition of living beyond her means” by telling coworkers she had a boyfriend who “bought her things.” In one instance, Clark sent an “Edible Arrangements” bouquet to her office, telling coworkers they were from the generous boyfriend.
The bouquet later turned up as a $123.16 expense on her city-issued Visa card.
City spokesman Bob Woods said he could not comment on the report’s specifics, but said the ordeal overshadowed the good work of hundreds of other city employees.
“It’s just unfortunate,” he said.
The report, conducted by City Auditor Carlos Holt, found the city’s parks, recreation and cultural affairs (PRCA) department heads were negligent in allowing Clark access to their cards, that they failed to properly review expense reports for more than a year and that human resources employees failed to notify others of her arrest history.
It wasn’t until the PRCA department was found to have overspent its budget that Russ Etling, the city’s cultural affairs manager, questioned Clark about the legitimacy of some of the purchases.
The report said when Etling noted to Clark that multiple payments seemed to go toward her PayPal account titled “NC83FAMU,” — for her initials, birth year and college — Clark replied: “Yeah, where’s my money?”
Etling failed to review and show proof of purchases through receipts — a city requirement — and used pre-signed labels rather than signing off as a cardholder, falsely indicating a proper review of purchases took place, the report found.
Clark rang up $21,848 on Etling’s city card and $9,413 on a card issued to John Weber, the parks manager. The report suggests Clark was able to get access to Weber’s card without his knowledge. She also got access to a card issued to city labor crew leader Walter Milne without his knowledge, and spent $872.
On June 1, in an interview with Holt, Etling told the auditor he was the one who “found the fraud” but failed to acknowledge any responsibility for the charges over a 15-month period, Holt’s report said.
“Mr. Etling was no hero in this fraud scheme; rather, an enabler of theft that failed to carry out procedures that he acknowledged by signature he was required to perform,” Holt wrote.
Additionally, the report found PRCA Director Steve Phillips acted inadequately and was negligent in providing control and oversight of the department as funds were misspent. Phillips granted Clark access to her own card with a $2,000 limit per transaction and $10,000 limit for 30 days.
Holt recommends Phillips and Etling be held accountable, that the city require biannual retraining on card-use procedures and set up email notifications for every purchase made. Neither Phillips nor Etling could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Woods, the spokesman, said he couldn’t specify what disciplinary actions might be taken, but said City Manager Anthony Lyons is considering options.
Clark’s legal troubles began before she was hired at the city — and the city’s human resources department knew that when hiring her, documents show.
Following her March arrest, The Sun obtained documents showing Clark was arrested for similar charges in Leon County on an outstanding warrant in Orange County.
According to notes in an Orlando Police Department investigation obtained by Holt, Clark used her human resources position at Hughes Supply to illegally obtain other employees’ banking and personal information and sold the data to a third party.
She was charged with seven felonies — five counts of fraudulent use of personal identification, scheming to defraud and burglary of a structure. The charges were later dismissed after Clark pleaded no contest with adjudication withheld and served probation.
The city report found the city’s human resources department failed to properly execute the city’s employee background screening and didn’t advise the hiring department about concerns in Clark’s history, allowing her to be hired.
City spokesman Chip Skinner has previously said that city guidelines would likely keep applicants with such issues from being hired, and certainly keep them from being given access to city money.
The report will be presented to the City Commission Thursday.