Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for December, 2010

Terrorism Preparedness Grant For Snohomish County

by Matt Rosenberg December 13th, 2010

SUMMARY: The Snohomish County Council is in the process of approving the county’s receipt of a $1.895 million federal grant to enhance preparedness for possible terrorist attacks in Snohomish County involving chemical, biological, nuclear or explosive devices. The money would be used for improvements to the county sheriff’s helicopter, the county’s back-up emergency operations center, for a Heavy Rescue Apparatus vehicle, SWAT counter-terrorism training of sheriff’s officers, and medical, logistics and cross-jurisdictional terrorism response planning.

A Heavy Rescue Apparatus vehicle

BACKGROUND: On 12/27/10, according to the meeting agenda, the Snohomish County Council ’s Law and Justice/Human Services committee will consider a recommendation from County Executive Aaron Reardon the the county council receipt for use in calendar year 2011 of a $1,895,010 Urban Area Security Initiative terrorism preparedness grant to Snohomish County from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, delivered through the Washington State Military Department.

These DHS grants are provided nationally for key urban areas considered to be higher-priority terrorism targets and to strengthen response capabilities to attacks involving chemical, biological, nuclear or explosive devices. Recipients in Washington state are the cities of Seattle and Bellevue and the counties of Snohomish, King and Pierce.

KEY LINK: Proposed Motion 10-587 agenda packet for Snohomish County Council Law and Justice/Human Services Committee meeting, regarding Urban Area Security Initiative grant.

KEY PROVISIONS:

  • If the committee and then the county council approve the grant, the funds will be used for several purposes.
  • Purchase, install and test airframe engine equipment to improve the performance of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s helicopter.
  • Purchase and test a Heavy Rescue Apparatus for the Snohomish County Technical Rescue Force for use in the event of an attack involving chemical, biological, nuclear or explosive devices or weapons of mass destruction.
  • Purchase, install and test new generator wiring and an extended regional fiber optic network – both for Snohomish County’s back-up Emergency Operations Center.
  • Conduct medical operations and logistics planning in order to be fully prepared to manage resources, and patient movements, identify facilities and prioritize equipment to be used, in the event of a terrorist attack.
  • Do Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) counter-terrorist training and exercises for county sheriff’s personnel.
  • Coordinate with other urban areas and state to meet needs of vulnerable groups and heighten awareness of community response priorities in the event of a terrorist attack.

Merger Review: WA Accountancy Board, Licensing Dept.

by Matt Rosenberg December 12th, 2010

SUMMARY: An outside evaluation required by the state legislature finds that a merger between the Washington state Board of Accountancy and the state Department of Licensing would yield no appreciable savings and would likely increase the time required to investigate and resolve professional complaints involving CPAs and CPA firms. The report recommends against a merger.

BACKGROUND: The state of Washington’s supplemental budget for 2010-2011 included an amendment requiring an outside evaluation of the feasibility of merging the state board of accountancy – which oversees CPA professional conduct and performance – with the state Department of Licensing (DOL). The DOL already regulates other professions in Washington state, and legislators wanted to see if the merger could be accomplished in an effective manner, in order to save money while maintaining existing service levels. The evaluation was performed by the firm Zwillinger, Greek, Zwillinger & Knecht (ZGZK), of Phoenix. Factored into the report is information provided to the consultants by the accounting board and the licensing department about current operations and understandings of changes which would occur under consolidation. Both entities agreed that their assumption, used to develop this report, were portrayed accurately by ZGZK.

KEY DOCUMENT: Merger Report, to Washington State Board of Accountancy, 12/1/10

KEY FINDINGS:

U.S. Mint: The Cost Of A Penny Is 1.6 Cents

by Matt Rosenberg December 11th, 2010

SUMMARY: In its 2009 annul report, the U.S. Mint included a chart showing the costs from 2007 through 2009 of manufacturing and initial distribution of its different coin denominations. It costs more than half-again as much to make and produce a penny than it is worth: 1.6 cents per penny. Costs of producing and distributing a nickel exceed its value only fractionally. Making and distributing dimes and quarters are considerably less than their face value.

KEY LINK: U.S. Mint 2009 Annual Report, 5/10

KEY FINDINGS: The following chart from the annual report shows the costs of manufacturing and initial distribution of different coin denominations versus their face value, over the last three years. Overall, the amount by which per-coin cost for the penny and nickel have been exceeding face value, has decreased from 2007 through 2009.

WA State Board Of Accountancy: 2010 Disciplinary Actions

by Matt Rosenberg December 6th, 2010

SUMMARY: Through Dec. 3, 2010 the Washington State Board of Accountancy has issued 13 suspensions or temporary “stays” of licenses or professional certificates for accountants or CPAs this year, for reasons including criminal convictions, failure to perform work in a timely manner, or failure to meet requirements to complete continuing professional education. In another 15 cases, lesser disciplinary actions were taken, typically either for failure to participate in state-mandated quality assurance reviews, or for doing business as a CPA without proper credentials.

BACKGROUND: The Washington State Board of Accountancy’s oversight is mainly focused on certified public accountants (CPAs) and CPA firms, ensuring that any reports of professional misconduct by them are investigated and disciplinary actions taken, if warranted. The board keeps an online repository of disciplinary actions from 2007 to 2010. For any year, different pages are available for review. One (“results of investigations”) provides summaries of cases by type, using tables; another details license and certificate suspensions or “stays;” and the third documents lesser (“other”) citations. The board also maintains an online database where potential clients can check to see if their CPA or CPA firm has an active license, and any prior state sanctions. The board also provides a useful consumer advice page for engaging with CPAs.

KEY LINK: Washington State Board of Accountancy, 2010 Disciplinary Actions report, 12/3/10

KEY FINDINGS:

There’ve been 13 CPAs disciplined by the state board of accountancy in 2010, through Dec. 3. Some of the more notable cases follow.

Many of the remaining cases among the 13 involved failure to meet state requirements to complete continuing professional education. Another page at the accountancy board’s Web site titled “Other Board Orders for 2010” documents less severe but still noteworthy disciplinary actions, against another 15 individuals. These citations are for missteps such as doing business as a CPA without CPA credentials; deficient responses to state quality assurance reviews; or failure to complete work for a client.

Audit: Low Accountability For Offender Reentry Programs

by Matt Rosenberg December 4th, 2010

SUMMARY: U.S. Department of Justice “offender reentry” grant programs meant to help released prisoners reintegrate with society and avoid future criminal convictions were not properly designed and implemented because they don’t include any substantive measures to evaluate whether or not they are actually achieving their goals. Clear standards should be promoted for defining avoidance of repeat offenses (such as a three-year gap between prisoner release and any new convictions) and they should be used to compile data leading to regular evaluations of the programs’ performance. Sixty-two percent of the 760 enrolled participants in DOJ’s Washington State offender reentry program had been re-convicted on felony or misdemeanor charges within 18 months of release from prison. Problems have persisted since 2000 across the Department of Justice in monitoring grantee performance. Office of Justice Programs grantees misspend “significant amounts” of funds on “unallowable and unsupported costs.” The U.S. government spent $173.9 million on offender reentry program from fiscal year 2002 through 2009.

BACKGROUND: More than 650,000 convicts are released from state and federal jails annually and a higher number from local jails. But federal data indicate more than half will be in “some form of legal trouble within three years.” The U.S. Department of Justice administers three grant programs which aim to help offenders when the re-enter society and reduce recidivism, or subsequent criminal offenses by released prisoners. The three programs are: the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI); the Prisoner Reentry Initiative (PRI); and the Second Chance Act Prisoner Reentry Initiative (SCA). The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) gave 154 grants worth $173.9 million for offender rentry programs from fiscal years 2002 through 2009. The audit of the three programs by the justice department’s Office of the Inspector General was conducted to evaluate how well each one was designed and managed. One main emphasis was on whether the programs had built-in performance standards and data collection, so their success could be measured.

KEY LINK: Audit Report 10-34, U.S. Department Of Justice’s Office Of The Inspector General, “Office of Justice Programs’ Management Of Its Offender Reentry Initiatives,” 7/10.

KEY FINDINGS: