Accounting Gone Wild in SnoCo ~ Hiding Mismanagement and Theft of Resources

For those of you without a background in accounting this email may sound like just another day at the office where folks aren’t handing in paperwork correctly and on time

RE: Can we help?
From “ericks, mark”:
To  “raines, sharyl”

Please send to Brian Lewis and Brian Haseleu
Mark L. Ericks
Deputy County Executive
Snohomish County, WA
D: (425) 388-3695
C: (425) 238-4500

Notice: All emails and attachments sent to and from Snohomish County are public records and may be subject to disclosure pursuant to The Public Records Act RCW 42.56.

From: Raines, Sharyl
Sent: Monday, February 24, 2014 1:25 PM
To: Ericks, Mark
Subject: FW: Can we help?

Mark,

Following is a (unusually strong) message I sent last week to my “management contacts” throughout the County.  After sending it, I realized I currently don’t have a contact for the Executive’s Office.  Would you let me know who you would like me to include as the Executive Office’s accounting/internal control management contact?

Sharyl Raines
Controller
Snohomish County Finance
425.388.3308

NOTICE:  All emails, and attachments, sent to and from Snohomish County are public records and may be subject to disclosure pursuant to the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56)

From: Raines, Sharyl
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2014 10:11 AM
To: Akerlund, Kay; Baird, Mark; Barndt, Connie; Bhagat, Sara; Camp, Scott; Clawson, Bridget; Crane, Kristin; Doherty, Tamara; Fadden, Joanie; Fulcher, Michael; Gahm, Karen; Garcia, Al; Gunn, Kathleen; Hjelle, Linda; Isenberg, Marcia; Jones, Alan; Kern, Susan; Kurke, Mary; Lenz, Bob; Lindsey, Jerry; Miller, Pam; Oie, Heather; Payne, Deborah; Scalf, Roy; Smith, Bridgid; Taber, Carol; Veliz, Robert; Weaver, Shauna
Subject: Can we help?

All,

The following e-mail reminder was sent to accounts payable staff throughout the county.  It was a simple excerpt from the year-end accounting instruction letter sent by me in December.  The excerpt identifies accounts payable cut-off criteria that has been included in the instruction letter for years.  Based on some of the appalling responses received by several of Finance’s Analysts I wanted to check in with you to determine if there is anything Finance can do to ensure your staff understand AP cut-off requirements.  Choosing to try to hide transactions from Finance is not an acceptable solution.  As Robin mentions below, this has been an audit issue in the past and I’m hoping it won’t be a repeat issue in the future due to some staff trying to circumvent controls.  Please bear in mind that AP cut-off is tested every year by the auditors.  If there is anything additional we can do to help your staff better understand the requirements, please let me know.

Robin’s e-mail:

From: Shreve, Robin
Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 9:35 AM
To: SBF – SFG Accounts Payable Users
Cc: Kwon, Phillip; Loveless, Cristy; Metsker, Sheri; Miller, Nancy; Raines, Sharyl; Robb, Kimberly; Rogers, DaNielle; Snoey, Marisa
Subject: Remaining 2013 Invoices
Importance: High

Good Morning,

It is critical that payments be applied to the correct accounting year – this continues to be an audit issue with the State of Washington auditors.

We are receiving 2014 AP batches with 2013 invoices.  Please be sure you are working with your assigned Finance Accounting Analyst.  Your analyst will help determine if a JV is needed to accrue those 2013 expenses back from 2014.  Again, please contact your Finance Accounting Analyst; it is a very important piece of year end processing.

Reminder:  Process for any remaining 2013 unpaid invoices:

  • Enter any remaining 2013 unpaid invoices into a 2014 AP batch;
  • Contact your assigned Finance Accounting Analyst;
  • Determine if a JV needs to be processed to accrue expenditures back into 2013 and who will process J

If you are not the person who would be involved with these types of decision please pass this information to those who do.

Sharyl Raines
Controller
Snohomish County Finance
425.388.3308
NOTICE:  All emails, and attachments, sent to and from Snohomish County are public records and may be subject to disclosure pursuant to the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56)

What it really is is an attempt by different departments to hide the fact that they have mismanaged their money, or that they misspent it. In some cases even stolen the monies.

This is a very common place practice in Snohomish County and in Gold Bar. The Gold Bar Reporter recently received the financials for the city of Gold Bar and realized that they are stealing from the Water Fund to pay for Legal Fees, and then not paying the legal fees until they hit a fiscal new year.

This statement alone should make you sick to your stomach

Choosing to try to hide transactions from Finance is not an acceptable solution. As Robin mentions below, this has been an audit issue in the past and I’m hoping it won’t be a repeat issue in the future due to some staff trying to circumvent controls.

The problems we open gov advocates are facing is the fact that even when the Auditor chastises the cities for these bad accounting practices it does nothing to resolve it, and it doesn’t make the information readily accessible to the general public:

I wonder how you would vote for some of these people if you could see the real abuses of your tax dollars that go on every day.

Worse yet what happens in the event of a major catastrophe and we don’t have money for services? Well we found that out during the Oso mudslide and those payments are still being “stunted” to cook our books. (You’ll notice the Dept of Emergency Management is included here) We have been being told by multiple sources that the DEM’s books were already about 250K short before Oso yet my requests for a forensic accounting have been ignored for almost 2 years now.

I will be making a public records request to find out which depts are doing this and then asking for all of the paperwork to figure out just how far in the hole we really are and will post that info when I get it.

To make matters worse the Washington State Auditor is under indictment for the same kind of stuff. We might want to consider changing the word “Politics” to Foxes who guard the henhouses…