Ex-harbormaster says he’s not guilty

Langley city employees deposited their own money-filled envelopes in the harbor fare box to confirm suspicions that the city’s newly-hired harbormaster was skimming funds from boaters’ fees.

The sting operation came to light last week when Eric Lambour plead not guilty to a second-degree felony theft charge at his arraignment last Friday.

Lambour was arrested last summer by the Island County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly stealing money from the cash fare box at the Langley marina. He was immediately fired from his city job at the marina after his arrest Aug. 24.

If Lambour is found guilty on the second-degree felony theft charge, he could face up to 60 days in jail. He has no criminal record.

A court order now prohibits Lambour from going to the Langley City Marina, and from communicating to Langley Public Works Director Rick Hill or Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Mahler.

The funds Lambour allegedly took were cash from marina fees paid by boaters visiting the marina. Part of Lambour’s job as harbormaster was to collect the receipt envelopes and then transfer them to the clerk-treasurer’s office for accounting.

According to police reports, Langley Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Mahler noticed a drop in the amount of money being submitted once Lambour took over as harbormaster. Mahler said coin receipts collected from the restroom and shower building were also noticeably down from prior collection figures.

After the discrepancy was noticed, two people at city hall started tallying the marina receipts turned in by the harbormaster together. And Mahler continued studying the changes in revenue. She discovered that before Lambour was working as harbormaster, cash made up 56 percent of the fees collected from the marina, and the other 44 percent came from checks.

After Lambour began collecting the receipts, only 26 percent of receipts involved cash, and 74 percent came from checks.

The number of vessels being reported by Lambour also appeared to be dropping from the amount that moored at the marina earlier. Even so, city hall workers noticed that the marina appeared to be at full capacity during the busy summer season.

Mahler said she told the mayor and Hill, the public works director, about the obvious discrepancies and her belief that money was being skimmed from marina receipts, according to court documents.

With Mayor Neil Colburn’s endorsement, Mahler and Hill put four fake boater registrations and mooring fee envelopes that contained money into the lock box. An officer was there when the envelopes were put in the locked farebox, according to court papers.

When Lambour returned from being off work for several days, he only returned two of the fake envelopes, and the two others were missing. According to Mahler, the money in the envelopes totaled $65.

Hill started investigating the number of boats moored at the marina on Aug. 16 and compared his count to a list Lambour was submitted with his receipt collections.

Many times, Hill said Lambour listed fewer vessels than had actually been moored at the marina. Hill started his own inventory to keep track.

Lambour was later arrested and charged with second-degree theft.

After his arrest, Lambour wrote a statement he believed he had taken $400 to $700 in city marina funds. He told police he was going to use the money to enhance the efficiency and appearance of the marina, and that he was willing to provide restitution for the funds.

Trial has been set for March 28.

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