Collaboration in Civic Spheres

French Slough Flood District Dealt No-Bid Projects To Its Own

by Matt Rosenberg February 9th, 2011

SUMMARY: In a newly-issued report the Office Of The Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag has cited the French Slough Flood Control District In Snohomish County for violating state conflict-of-interest law and state law requiring competitive bidding on contracts. Two different companies partially owned by elected commissioners of the district received payments for work projects from the district, totaling more than $120,000 in one case and more than $20,000 in another case. The district did not meet state requirements to allow competitive bidding by different contractors on the projects.

BACKGROUND: The French Slough Flood Control District comprises almost 5,500 acres of mostly agricultural land near the City of Snohomish In Snohomish County. The district’s mission is to protect its service area from floods on the Snohomish and Pilchuck rivers adjacent to a nearly four-mile-long levee network which includes a pumping station and a floodway channel to direct floodwaters back to the Snohomish River. The District has a general manager and three elected commissioners, and an annual budget in 2009 of $604,782. It is audited every three years, and the current audit covers 2007 through 2009.

KEY LINK: Accountability Audit Report, French Slough Flood Control District, Snohomish County, issued 2/7/11, Washington State Auditor’s Office

KEY FINDINGS:

  • State law prohibits public officials from having financial interests in work contracts from the public body on which they serve. But a company which received $110,893 in 2009 and $10,616 in 2008 from contracts for excavation services from the French Slough Flood Control District is half-owned by one of the district’s elected commissioners. According to the Auditor’s Office, the company is named Wetlands Creation and the district commissioner who owns a half-share is David Remlinger.
  • The $110,893 paid by the district in 2009 to Wetlands Creation was for four projects, none of which met state requirements for competitive bidding. For one of the four projects, the audit found, other bids were sought but the bid deadline didn’t allow the required 13 days for responses and the bids were not opened in a public meeting. There were no competitive bids sought for the other three projects.
  • Another commissioner of the district owns a one-fifth share in an insurance company which received $9,770 in 2008 and $10,256 in 2009 from the district for products and services. According to the auditor’s office that company is named Gunning and Associates and the district commissioner who owns the one-fifth share is Scott Gunning. The audit says this work also was not competitively bid.
  • The audit states that the district has no procurement policy.
  • The district states in the audit report that it will comply with state-mandated competitive bidding requirements and the state prohibition on a public body contracting with companies in which any of its elected officials has a financial interest. The district also pledges to develop new and written administrative policies which address these concerns.

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