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.