Open letter to State Auditor Brian Sonntag, November 21, 2011

Brian Sonntag
State Auditor

Mr. Sonntag,

Last week I sent this to the attention of three employees of your office and have yet to receive any response from any of them.

Could I trouble you to look into why any employee of the State Auditor’s Office would even consider it “unfortunate” when a citizen files a Citizen Hotline Complaint with your office and seeks an accountability review of a government agency?

And, if you have the chance, I would like to know how the hourly rate is determined for such audits. The agency discussed is assessed a 128 hour audit and I see by the report from the exit conference that the total cost to the district has been increasing these past few years. Since the hours have not changed, can I assume this is related to salary changes?

Regards,

Jerry Galland

 

Standard government response: Ignore. No answer as of December 7th

.

“Unfortunate” Open Letter

 

Still waiting for a response, but on the 14th, I sent this email to three members of the Washington State Auditor’s Office:

 

 

Tammy Bigelow

Tony Cullerton

Mindy Chamber

Washington State Auditor’s Office

 

Below is a link to a short portion of video* taken at the October 25, 2011 South King Fire & Rescue regular Board of Commissioners meeting.

To say the least, when the public perception is that the purpose of an audit is to review financial records; the role of an auditor employed by the Washington State Auditor’s Office is to review public agency financials, and the State Auditor’s Office has in place reporting procedures for citizens, agency employees (whistleblower) and fraud reporters to register potential violations, that an employee of the State Auditor’s Office would include in their report “It is unfortunate that time and resources were spent investigating complaints when they could have been auditing other areas” to characterize in any manner that investigating, during the course of a regularly scheduled audit, a report by a citizen of potential improper use of tax payers money would be “unfortunate”.

Commissioner Mark Freitas was trying to determine who used the sentence that was included in the committee report.

Commissioners James A Fossos can be clearly heard stating that “the auditor said it” and this was confirmed by Commissioner William Gates, Chairman of the board.

I am appalled by even the implication that an employee of the Washington State Auditor’s Office could possibly consider simply doing their job and looking into possible financial abuses in public agencies is a nuisance or “unfortunate” use of resources.

Also, I direct you to the official website of South King Fire & Rescue where the inference is restated in a press release** and publicly repeated in the Federal Way Mirror ***

Amazing, considering that accepting and investigating citizen complaints is one of the SAO’s core functions.

I am extremely anxious to hear the explanation for this unfortunate comment.

 

Jerry Galland

 

Sources:

* You may have to turn the volume up to hear it clearly:

http://youtu.be/oNR7puuUqyk

** http://www.southkingfire.org/News.asp?Page=PressRelease&piID=110

*** http://www.federalwaymirror.com/news/133033083.html

 

**Community Press Release Contact: CFO David Lawson 253.946.7323

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10/31/2011


South King Fire & Rescue Commissioners Delighted with another Flawless Audit

Federal Way, Wa – South King Fire & Rescue just completed their exit interview with the Washington State Auditor’s office and were pleased that the report “does not include any findings”, as noted directly from the exit conference.

“It is important for us to be fiscally responsible and financially transparent” said Board Vice-chairman James Fossos after reviewing the draft report. “We have tremendous confidence in Fire Chief Al Church, and our Chief Financial Officer David Lawson.”

The required audit is part of a regular annual review of the department’s financial practices and finances conducted by the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

“We’re very pleased, yet not surprised with these results,” said Board Chairman Bill Gates. “This audit marked the tenth consecutive year that no findings were reported. We continue to be good stewards of our citizen’s tax dollars.”

The state budgeted 128 hours of staff time for the audit which the district pays for out of its general budget. The cost of this audit was $10,855. This year however, some of the budgeted hours were spent investigating four separate citizen hotline complaints. The audit concluded that “the District was not in violation of any applicable RCW’s, BARS guidance, or other authoritative sources” in any of the areas the auditors examined. The audit found the complaints to be totally unsubstantiated and unfortunately detracted from time that could have been spent reviewing compliance in other areas.

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