YAKIMA – The Office of the Washington State Auditor published two audits of the City of Wapato today, documenting significant violations of government standards. The accountability and financial audits include eight findings, an unusually high number and cause for concern. The State Auditor’s Office (SAO) also issued a letter to city leadership today responding to concerns that the public raised about Wapato. The reports come after SAO issued a fraud report in February detailing a $300,000 misappropriation in Wapato.
“These audits speak to a basic lack of accountability and transparency in the city,” said State Auditor Pat McCarthy. “It is important the State Auditor’s Office shine a light on issues that need public attention, and the situation in Wapato is deeply concerning.”
McCarthy personally attended a meeting to deliver the results of the audits to Wapato city leadership today.
Among the top findings:
- The former mayor / current city administrator violated the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officers when he used his position as mayor to create the city administrator position and to write the terms of the contract he was then appointed to fill.
- The city violated the Open Public Meetings Act by not properly advertising or posting public notice of regular and special city council meetings. The city also did not hold regular meetings at regular times, as required by law, and did not ensure a quorum of elected councilmembers were in attendance when taking action .
Other results include finding the city:
- Violated its nepotism policy
- Did not competitively bid for the purchase of two vehicles, a swimming pool project and engineering services
- Did not have adequate controls over cash receipting, billing, payroll or credit card activity
- Did not monitor its financial activity, resulting in a significant decline in its financial health
The audits of Wapato published today include detailed recommendations to correct each finding. However, SAO does not have the authority to enforce corrections. Copies of the audits will be delivered to the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office and the State Attorney General’s Office for their review.
“These are serious issues, and resolving them will be challenging,” said McCarthy. “It will take a call for change from the community, responsiveness from their elected leaders and the skill of trained, professional city staff. I strongly recommend that city officials follow their civic responsibilities and work to meet the expectations of their community and the broader Washington public.”