Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘State Governments’ Category

State finds gaps in sex offender screening at foster homes

by John Stang August 8th, 2012

Twenty-eight sex offenders fell between the cracks of state background checks on child care homes between 2002 and 2012, said a state performance audit released last week. “We found that even with required criminal background checks, monitoring and/or regular social worker visits, offenders still lived in child and foster care homes undetected,” the report said. The audit’s purpose was to see if Washington’s sex offender databases could be used to to help monitor state-regulated facilities with children. This was done after similar audits in other states found that a child care provider or caretaker could pass background checks, but could still allow a sex offenders inside a facility without reporting that person to the appropriate regulating agency. Washington has roughly 18,000 registered sex offenders. The 28 sex offenders were living in foster homes unreported by the providers. The audit cross-checked sex offender addresses with the addresses of child care providers to find the 28 on both.

Audit: oversight lax for alt. ed students in Yakima

by John Stang August 1st, 2012

A state audit said Yakima County’s East Valley school district improperly collected $66,717 in state money for an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program serving home-based students via computers, by failing to exercise required oversight ensuring the students were adequately participating. In violation of funding conditions, the district didn’t document that many students in ALE were actually making adequate progress, or putting in required hours of work. In some cases, ALE students failed to make contact with district staff for at least 20 days, also in violation of state funding rules. Some of those students had left the program but were still being counted as participants. Overall, full due diligence monitoring wasn’t performed for half the students in the district’s ALE program in 2010, nor for 70 percent in 2011, according to the audit.

After Kennewick teacher’s series of sexual emails: a salary hike, retirement, then a state reprimand

by Matt Rosenberg July 31st, 2012

A teacher at Kamiakin High School in the Kennewick, Wash. school district is finally getting a penalty from the state for using his school email account to receive, view and forward pictures of nude and partially nude women; and for using it to receive and view images of sexually explicit conduct. Among the classes he taught was “principles of technology.” One individual to whom he forwarded sexual content was the district’s Maintenance and Operations Supervisor Ken Smith. But the 45-day teaching certificate suspension conditionally accepted last week by Emil J. “Jerry” Carlson in an agreed order with the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Pubic Instruction comes after Carlson reaped an $11,000 annual increase in pay and benefits while the district knew of his actions; and finally, after his recent retirement noted by the Tri-City Herald. The state disciplinary action against him also comes a full 32 months after the state was informed of the problems by the Kennewick district. No students were involved.

WA audit: fiscally, City of Sunnyside skating on thin ice

by John Stang July 26th, 2012

The City of Sunnyside in Yakima County improperly juggled its internal funds in the past two years, so its general fund landed in the red just five months into 2012, according to a state audit report released this week. That red ink in the general fund totaled $613,516 as of May 31, although the city has slightly more than $1 million in cash reserves to bail it out. But this is the first time – at least in recent years – that Sunnyside’s general fund is in negative territory and the cash reserves will have to be used, and it’s no mere technicality. The report from the office of State Auditor Brian Sonntag says, “The city is at risk of not being able to meet financial obligations or maintain services at current levels. This could result in the city needing to take out bank loans or to find alternate funding sources, which could be an additional cost to its ratepayers and taxpayers.”

Perp’s appeal fails, in Capitol Hill hate crime at LGBT club

by Matt Rosenberg July 24th, 2012

A ruling from a Washington State appeals court Monday upheld the conviction of a Seattle man for other charges related to an anti-gay hate crime for which he was also convicted, near a Capitol Hill LGBT nightclub. Muhamet M. Sumaj was convicted in 2011 of felony and malicious harassment of a female-to-male transsexual named A.M. and felony harassment of a security guard named Donald Tidd after Sumaj conveyed racially and sexually-tinged verbal abuse and death threats outside Neighbours, a club popular with LGBT patrons. King County prosecutors noted at the time that malicious harassment is the legal term used in the state’s “hate crime” law. Sumaj was sentenced by King County Judge Steven C. Gonzales in February 2011 to six months of Work Education Release, on a King County work crew. Sumaj’s attorney in early October 2011 filed an appeal with the state seeking to overturn the felony harassment convictions, arguing prosecutors failed to properly spell out in their case that he had made a “true threat,” and also asserting there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Sumaj on the second one, involving Tidd. King County filed a response and after deliberation Sumaj’s appeal was rejected July 23 by the Washington State Court of Appeals Division One.

WSU-Vancouver’s $130K promo blitz aims to up enrollment

by Matt Rosenberg July 24th, 2012

Washington State University’s Vancouver, Wash. campus is seeking requests for proposals from marketing firms to help the school boost its overall campus population an ambitious seven to nine percent yearly through a direct campaign targeting prospective freshman. WSU classes in “America’s Vancouver” across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore. began in 1983 and WSU-Vancouver’s full facility opened in 1989 as “the urban research campus” of the WSU system. It had been focused on courses mainly for upperclassmen and a smaller cohort of graduate students until the 2005-06 school year.

Then it started admitting freshmen and sophomores, and began buying the first of 254,000 student names to date for marketing campaigns to prospective enrollees. Typically such lists are bought from companies offering standardized college admissions tests such as as the SAT and ACT to high-schoolers. Total spring 2012 enrollment at the Vancouver campus was 3,006 students, up gradually from 1,977 in spring 2006, according to online data from WSU.

WA Revenue Dept. unveils sales tax-rate app for businesses

by Matt Rosenberg July 12th, 2012

The Washington State Department of Revenue has released an iPhone app, soon to appear for Andriod as well, that lets businesses doing transactions in different areas look up the local sales and use tax rates, which vary according to city and county. The department calls it “an ideal tool if you make deliveries to your customers in multiple locations.” It’s available at the iTunes store, where early reviews are positive.

Users first look up their location of sale by address, using GPS, or enter the zip code. Then they tap the “calculate;” key in the sale amount; and tap “done.” The app provides the local sales tax rate, and total amount due. The user can save the data for each transaction to a list. The list can be viewed, and also sent via text or email from iPhone.

“We are using the latest technologies to constantly adapt to the changing needs of taxpayers,” said Janet Shimabukuro, assistant director of the Department’s Taxpayer Services division, in a written statement. “The new app should help businesses get the right rate and location code quickly.”

The DOR statement continued, “The app will be particularly useful to mobile businesses such as contractors who need to code sales tax to the location where a service is performed. It also will help retailers who ship products from one location to another. Under Washington law, the sales tax must be coded to the destination of a shipped or delivered product.”

The department recommends users save the confirmation code for each transaction, in case of an audit.


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King County jail revenues seen falling at least $10M short

by Matt Rosenberg July 10th, 2012

A shortage of prisoners and a decline in paid services provided to them will blow a hole of at least $10 million this year in the budgeted revenue projections of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention. Revenues collected by the department in 2012 for housing and servicing detainees from contracting cities and the state Department of Corrections could decline even more than that because of further reductions in jail-eligible populations by DOC, according to a June 28 letter from County Executive Dow Constantine to the county council.