Former U administrator pleads guilty to theft

Dan Haugen

A former University employee pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of theft by swindle for stealing more than $40,000 worth of equipment from the school between 1999 and 2001.

“It was a horrible mistake, and it will never happen again,” Keith Passow, a former manager for Facilities Management, told Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Beryl Nord.

As part of an agreement between the defense attorney and county prosecutor, Nord sentenced Passow to six months in the county workhouse and up to 10 years probation. He must also reimburse the University for the equipment he stole and for internal investigation costs.

According to court documents and the internal University investigation report, Passow used the University’s automated financial management system and an employee credit card to purchase two tractors and several accessories, which he kept at his home.

The court complaint lists 17 separate purchases totaling $46,351 that Passow made between May 1999 and August 2001.

As a manager, Passow was able to approve purchases up to $10,000. None of the receipts in question exceeded that limit, and the University’s investigation report suggests Passow may have split the purchases to avoid the additional oversight that would accompany larger purchases.

“It appears that the former employee was able to circumvent several controls,” according to the report.

Police retrieved many of the items from Passow’s home in Watertown, Minn., although some had already been sold or auctioned off.

Passow also pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge in 1983, nine years before the University hired him in 1992.

He was fired in March 2002 for inappropriately using a University parking permit, and Facilities Management employees discovered the suspicious receipts two weeks later.

Passow begins his workhouse sentence May 28.

Dan Haugen welcomes comments at [email protected]