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2010 State Audit Called Out Purchasing and Conflict of Interest Law Violations by Fire Commissioners

A September 2010 report from the Washington State Auditor's Office said that the purchase of an $85,000 used modular home meant to be used as a firefighter sleeping quarters by King County Fire District No. 28 didn't comply with state laws.

A used modular home that is currently being used as a sleeping quarters for King County Fire District No. 28 firefighters on duty at the Cumberland station on 35420 Veazie-Cumberland Road was the subject of a 2010 Washington State Auditor's report that found the fire commissioners did not comply with state purchasing laws or conflict of interest laws when they purchased the home.

The report states that the district paid $85,000 for the property which belonged to the spouse of a commissioner who had abstained from voting on the purchase, and the purchase was made without soliciting bids.

According to Fire Chief Joe Clow, the home belonged to the wife of Commissioner Dave Hannity and had been located at Mt. Villa Mobile Home Park.

"State purchasing laws require that fire districts advertise for competitive bids when making single purchases of more than $20,000 or justify using a sole source," the report said.

There was no public declaration that the building was available from only one source though the commissioners did respond to the audit later: "...all actions taken by the Board in the matter were done with the intention of providing a cost effective alternative to a proposed construction remodel of King Co. Fire Dist. #28 Station #2."

The home was listed at $115,000, according to Clow.

The commissioners further ran into state conflict of interest laws when in reimbursing Hannity for lot fees and utility expenses, they did not have a formal agreement or resolution in place. "Because the District is not obligated by contract or agreement for the property fees, this expense is a gift of public funds," said the report."

The purchase was made in April 2010. The audit noted that with the purchase, the district needed to get permits ahead of relocating the home but did not have an estimate for when it would have the permits to move the home.

Hannity had, at that time of the audit, already been reimbursed in excess of what the law allows for, which was $1,500 in a single month. When the home was permanently in place in August 2011, Hannity had been reimbursed (from June 2010 to February 2011) a total of $6,250.66, Clow reported.

That it took so long for the transfer of ownership to occur was attributed to a misunderstanding between state agencies, Clow said. "The district did not know to which agency to pay fees and taxes; and, was given different instructions by separate agencies causing a delay of several months."

The district's work in the annexation vote in the fall of 2010 further delayed the transfer, Clow said.

In their response to the audit, the commissioners said they believed the home was real property and that bids weren't required.

"The auditor disagreed as part of the finding due to the unit being a mobile home," Clow said.

The commissioners continued in their response, "This situation occurred as a result of not having procedures and policies in place, and not of a desire of any participant to act in an unethical manner."

Since the audit, the district has abided by recommendations to establish and policies and procedures to ensure adherence to state bid and ethics laws. They are available for public review, said Clow.

The district is next up for audit again later this year, said Clow, and will be audited on a yearly basis moving forward. Prior to 2011, it was audited every five years. The difference is due to the size of the budget, he said.

The yearly audits lend themselves to the district's efforts to provide better information and transparency to the tax-paying public.

Efforts have begun to update the district's website www.enumclawfire.com with regular meeting minutes and other financial information and Clow said he believes the site will be current with basic information available by the end of March.

All community information and newsletter content that runs in The Courier-Herald will also be on the site, he said.

Karen Burns March 06, 2012 at 02:17 AM
None of this surprises me, there is probably lots more of this happening than any of us will ever find out about. It is time for all 3 commissioners to be voted out.
Valerie C. March 06, 2012 at 03:48 AM
This report makes my blood boil. To purchase & place that eyesore on the property in Cumberland is ridiculous. What a horrible use of the publics & the fire departments money. During the snow, wind & ice storm one of our neighbors in Cumberland had a stroke, so we rushed him to the Cumberland Fire Station assuming those men living there would help us get him to the hospital. Instead, we waited for THIRTY minutes before someone from ENUMCLAW came & transported him to the hospital. There are SEVERAL rental houses in Cumberland that could've served those men just fine without all the expense. Someone NEEDS to audit the Enumclaw Fire Department.
Karen Burns March 06, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Valerie, I completely agree. An Audit and people need to be fired.
Linda Sekeres March 07, 2012 at 01:52 AM
This is really sad when the rest of us that live in Mt Villa Mobile Home Park can't even get more than 25,000 for our homes when we try to sell. Due to the high rent they just keep raising more than what we get in our Social Security checks so we decide do we buy food or medicine because I can't afford both. The park will pay you 1500.00 for your mobile home and then resell it for 10 to 15,000. We have had no justice since since the sale from Mr. Jensen who cared.
Mike Qualls March 07, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Thank you Aptil for getting this out, great story. I know a nice lady who just handed over her Double wide for nothing just to get out of this same park. This story has just gotten out and the whole town is talking about it. this is the tip of the iceberg. Commissioner Hannity was reimbursed for the rent on this trailer site for almost a full year. at $600 per month, wait till you see the total cost of this purchase. The commissioners need to be fired and pay back the tax payers.
Liz March 07, 2012 at 05:04 AM
As a citizen of the District and tax payer, I would be interested in knowing if anyone occupied this trailer during this one year period and did they pay rent. If so, to whom was this rent paid. If someone was living there rent free, did the tax payers foot the bill. This is such a mess.....
April Chan March 07, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Hi Liz, I put the question to the Chief and will let you know what I know, when I know. Thanks for asking.
Ted Devol March 09, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Mike's "Tip of the Iceburg" will be the statement that rings true. People in this community will be very upset if they are presented the facts. What is going on with Fire district 28 management is EXACTLY what is wrong with government today. Agency managers think no one is watching and can do whatever they want and call it all good. Not in my backyard!
April Chan March 09, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Hi Liz. From the Chief: The home was vacant and empty when it was purchased and remained that way until it was moved to the Cumberland station. No one was allowed to use the home and the district didn't collect any rent in that period. Currently, the resident volunteer firefighters who are living there now do not pay rent; their agreement with the FD is that they provide scheduled shifts of station coverage each week in lieu of rent.
Ted Devol March 10, 2012 at 11:09 PM
April got ahold of a story here that when everyone sees the facts they are going to be quite upset. Watch for it. Sure would be nice if the local news paper would actually dig into the real news that effects us like April has done here.

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