A recently-issued report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley says the City of Tumwater is breaking state law by continuing to fund its money-losing golf course with revenues from its utility fund which are paid back so slowly the loans are a “permanent diversion” of taxpayer monies. The public facility owed nearly $2 million as of December but the city says it won’t change its practices because keeping the land open and green is crucial to connecting regional recreation assets, and the course will eventually see an uptick in revenues from hoped-for redevelopment of the adjacent Brewery District. Tumwater’s response stands in sharp contrast to that of two other Washington cities recently faced with similar audit findings about public golf courses beset by red ink. Lynnwood in Snohomish County is exploring contracting out the operation of its golf course or selling it, and Sumner in Pierce County says it will seek to sell its facility.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category
by Matt Rosenberg February 19th, 2013
by Matt Rosenberg February 5th, 2013
Since it debuted last week, more than 850 Washingtonians have signed up to use a new feature on the state legislature’s Web site which allows registered users to comment directly to legislators on a bill’s merits from the bill history page rather than hunting around for a series of email addresses and having to go into a new window to send the emails. The pilot project will run through the 2013 legislative session, after which officials will evaluate its usefulness to lawmakers and the public. In the meantime, among the pending bills upon which you can comment are several which would further restrict disclosure of public records.
by Matt Rosenberg January 13th, 2013
In a new report for Washington state lawmakers pressed to meet a state Supreme Court mandate to better fund K-12 public education, the state’s own policy analysis unit has found that 10 percent class size reductions provide only a very modest gain in key student performance measures in early grades and nearly none in middle- and high-school. This comes not long after similar news from the same source that 10 percent bumps in K-12 spending also have limited bang-for-buck. A broader, related state study will report later this year on whether pinpointing new K-12 money to teacher effectiveness training gets better results.
by Matt Rosenberg December 19th, 2012
Violating the terms of its own contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for security services, the regional transit agency serving King, Snohomish and Pierce counties failed to secure documentation to assure the validity of more than $17 million in related charges which it has paid since mid-2008. The finding comes in a a just-released draft accountability audit of Sound Transit by Washington State that will be presented at a meeting this Thursday of ST’s Audit and Reporting Committee.
In August, a Sound Transit internal audit found that King County Metro over-billed ST for more than $700,000 in para-transit services in the ST Link Light Rail footprint in and around Seattle, mainly by charging based on passenger bookings made – rather than actual rides provided. ST sought a billing credit and corrective steps were taken. In late October, a blistering performance audit by the state zeroed in on Sound Transit’s Citizens Oversight Committee, highlighting a series of ethical lapses and apparent conflicts of interest.
by Matt Rosenberg November 28th, 2012
A letter from the Washington State Auditor’s Office, quietly slipped into the meeting agenda documents packet this month of the Seattle Community Colleges Board of Trustees, reveals that a College investigation verified six distinct instances of vanishing public funds from 2010 to 2012 totaling $7,240 and couldn’t determine who was responsible in any of the cases. They involve four different campuses of the College. The letter’s author, SAO Fraud Manager Sarah Walker, concludes, “we recommend the College strengthen internal controls to ensure adequate oversight and monitoring to safeguard public resources.” The school now says it has done that.
by Matt Rosenberg November 19th, 2012
On the one hand, getting the flu is considered fairly mundane, so long as there’s no pandemic and nobody dies. On the other hand, this common winter nuisance carries a hefty price tag. The annual bill in the United States for seasonal influenza is estimated at $87.1 billion in lost productivity, lost wages, and medical costs. We may suspect workers in certain occupations – such as health care or education – are more prone to get the flu, but there’s been little research on its prevalence across a range of occupations. Now, though, newly-reported data from Washington state provide some clues. A scientific survey of more than 8,700 Washington state workers showed that among 29 different categories it is janitors and cleaners, and secretaries who report the highest occurrence of flu-like symptoms, and truck drivers, technicians and construction laborers the lowest.
by Matt Rosenberg November 8th, 2012
King County Metro Transit was responsible for 71 percent of third quarter 2012 large negligence claim settlements paid by the county, according to a newly issued report. Metro’s share of those payouts is up from 50 percent for the first two quarters of the year, and just more than one-quarter of the total last year. A county ordinance requires quarterly online disclosure of large tort settlements, but that hasn’t happened and there’s no related public database. The data, when issued, can be found through a somewhat obscure county information portal including links to legislation and reports.
As it does every quarter of the year, King County this summer settled a series of what it classifies as major negligence, or tort, claims – those of $100,000 or more. The county is self-insured and pays all claims from a special fund of its own, except those over $7.5 million, for which it has outside insurance. County tort payouts in the third quarter of this year totaled more than $1.4 million dollars. Exactly $1 million or 71 percent of that amount stemmed from mishaps involving the county’s Metro bus system, according to a new Q1 through Q3 2012 tort payouts report to the King County Council from Jennifer Hills, the Director of the Office of Risk Management. The 71 percent share for Metro of the county’s large negligence claim payouts in Q3 compares to 50 percent for Metro in the first two quarters of the year combined; versus just more than one quarter of the county total for Metro in 2011; and nearly two-thirds in 2010, as we reported earlier this year.
by John Stang September 18th, 2012
Getting permits and licenses from Washington’s government is nowhere as simple as it could be, according to a recent Washington State performance audit. A longtime state government goal has been to allow people and businesses who must comply with regulations to go to central Web sites to get all the information they need to meet their legal obligations under the law. That goal is still a long way away. “Doing business in Washington today means sifting through a complex maze of state and local laws and regulations. At the state level alone, someone wanting to open a small convenience store, with a gas pump for example, would have to get regulatory approval from up to a dozen different agencies, in addition to approvals from local jurisdictions. … The challenge is especially difficult for small businesses, usually lacking the resources that enable larger companies to hire attorneys and other specialists to help them comply. When businesses fail to fully comply with regulations, they face fines and penalties,” the audit report said.