In a draft status update to be presented this morning at its audit committee meeting, the three-county Seattle region transit agency Sound Transit pointedly rejects a score of key ethics reforms recommended for its Citizens Oversight Panel in a bristling state performance audit released last fall. If the responses are affirmed by the full ST board as is likely, there will be no COP meetings at night so citizens can more easily attend; no outside screening of COP appointees for potential conflicts of interest; no mandated geographic diversity; no restrictions on public advocacy of transit-related measures by COP members; no mandated separate annual fiscal report by the COP; and no use of outside experts by the watchdog panel. There will be some improvements to the COP’s Web page.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for June, 2013
by Matt Rosenberg June 27th, 2013
by Matt Rosenberg June 25th, 2013
A new report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley suggests the Seattle Public Schools have left uncollected potentially several million dollars of revenues for facility rentals and related costs in recent years, much of it since last September. In addition to 9,000 hours of un-billed rentals, the district is also failing to monitor and collect on past due bills it has issued for facilities rentals; has disguised outside rentals as internal events, causing more revenue loss; has failed to follow insurance documentation requirements for outside events; and hasn’t trained many staff as needed on a new rentals record-keeping system.
According to the new accountability audit, the district failed to collect rental fees for about 9,000 hours worth of use of its facilities by outside at 2,432 special events on premises from last September through this April. District rental rates vary from $8.00 per hour to $88.90 per hour. Additional hourly fees are often charged for utilities, cleaning and security, ranging from $47 to $73.85. Combined rates thus could range from $56 per hour at the low end to as high as $162.75 per hour at the high end. The report says the amount of lost revenue can’t be quantified but that auditors believe it is “substantial.”
If all of the roughly 9,000 un-billed hours hours were charged at the minimum combined rental and services rate the revenue would have been $504,000; if all were billed at the highest combined rental and services rate – something that is unlikely – the recovered revenues would have been $1.46 million.
In addition the audit reports that the school district estimates it has left another $400,000 to $820,000 uncollected from the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department in shared 2006-2011 revenues related to adult usage of facilities and lighting fees. The school district failed to invoice Parks and lacks supporting documentation so cannot recover the monies it believes it is due.
The audit also says that of $223,213 in rental fees charged in from last September through this April, $102,913 remains uncollected and those payments are an average of 115 days overdue. The report adds, “The rentals office is not monitoring these past due accounts, nor is it sending delinquent accounts to collections.” Any additional past due amounts before last September can’t be calculated due to lack of records, the audit says.
In three cases, district staff disguised outside events as internal and lost $45,000 in the process, the audit also finds. Further, rentals overseers aren’t documenting insurance and concussion policy compliance, which could increase liability upon a death during an outside event, the audit states. A third of schools tested in the audit were’t using the district’s new online system for scheduling outside events.
The audit recommends the Seattle School District train staff to follow facilities usage guidelines; train staff who are assigned to do scheduling and event approvals in the new online system; follow-up on past due bills; and reconcile shared revenues from Parks with its own calculations of its share.
In a response in the audit the District says it concurs with the findings and will take the recommended corrective steps.
by Matt Rosenberg June 24th, 2013
HIV-infected patients getting primary treatment at University of Washington Harborview Medical Center in Seattle along with counterparts being treated in San Diego and Boston are at significant risk of undermining their care and treatment because of drug use, risky sex, non-adherence to medication regimes and other factors, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health by doctors from UW, Harvard, University of California-San Diego and the University of Alabama.
by Matt Rosenberg June 20th, 2013
In the second quarter of 2013 to date, Pacific Northwest companies mainly in Washington state – and other than Boeing directly – have been awarded contracts by the U.S. Department of Defense worth up to $769.6 million for software management services, drone support, infrared targeting and payload delivery systems, wood products, fuel, shipping containers, ship maintenance, paving, medical research and more.
by James Rogers June 18th, 2013
Tourism has a more pronounced effect on the world than the average tourist realizes. Whether they travel by air, sea or land, the long-distance tourist needs to appreciate the effects on the broader environment, the climate, and their own region and home. It’s more socially responsible, economically beneficial and ultimately more satisfying to travel closer to home, in one’s own region, than to distant lands. These were the key messages from Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, in a lecture earlier this month at WWU’s Biology Building titled, “The Trouble with Tourism: Rethinking Travel in the Age of Climate Change.” His talk was the final of the Huxley College speaker series.
by Matt Rosenberg June 17th, 2013
Federal data for 2012 show Washingtonians can feel confident crowing about how cool and moist is their climate, even if some other parts of the country experienced record or very high heat and record or very low rainfall. 2012 temperatures and precipitation are depicted in a series of maps from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration covering the country, regions, states and climate sub-divisions within states. The tool allows views of data back to 2002.
by Matt Rosenberg June 17th, 2013
Voter-approved legalization of marijuana last fall in Washington state via I-502 may well improve regulation, oversight, social justice outcomes and revenue collection around use of the drug, but at the same time will warrant ongoing scrutiny for potential public health problems, particularly among the young, according to a new paper published by a University of Washington drug addiction expert in the journal Frontiers of Psychiatry.
by Peggie Duggan June 14th, 2013
In an “Early Warning Report” the Office of the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency recommended to the agency it take immediate action on its largest warehouse. Parts of the EPA headquarters storage site had been converted into a workers’ playtime complex for contractor employees while other sections were markedly unsanitary and unsafe. The contractor, Apex Logistics, LLC, had been previously described by EPA as “uniquely qualified” to do warehouse management work though there’d been no on-site reviews at the 77,000 square foot HQ warehouse in Landover, Maryland since it was leased by the agency in 2007. Following a briefing last month from the OIG about conditions there, EPA moved quickly to take corrective steps.