How many City of Lakewood audits of the Tillicum Community Center have been conducted since the latter began receiving federal funds dispersed by the former 15 years ago?
But the Lakewood program administration responsible for the allocation of $60,000 or more per year for a decade-and-a-half – and in addition to that allocation having the responsibility to hold accountable the recipients for the legitimate use of nearly $1Mill over that time span – said that “financial reviews of groups that receive money from HUD (Housing and Urban Development) is required every two to three years,” according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune this past May 4.
So where are they, these financial reviews?
A Public Disclosure Request (PDR) of Lakewood dated a year ago – April 11, 2014 – specifically asked for all city audits of Tillicum Community Center operations since 2000 – the year that dump-truck loads of money began arriving. A Lakewood letter in response, dated March 27, 2015, reiterated what had been sought and stated, “attached are the documents responsive to your request.”
True, that one audit and related documents totaled 868 pages but not only was the Center only relatively recently audited, it was the only audit ever conducted.
Perhaps the PDR had not been clear. Thus a follow-up was sent to verify that in fact all requested had in fact all been received.
“Are there no other city reviews of Tillicum Community Center activity related to its receipt of federal funds which began in the year 2000?”
The City’s legal department response:
“The Community Development Department (said) this was the only audit that was done on the Tillicum Community center.”
Why is that significant?
Because that one review in 2012 found basic bookkeeping deficiencies and a lack of board oversight policies that might have been (had said reviews been conducted as promised even every two to three years) and should have been (to receive Dollar One on Day One) in place from a dozen years previous.
How do you receive a conveyor belt of cash to spend on who knows what and not (a) be held accountable; and (b) be found out much sooner than much later that operations were deficient and operators were derelict in duty; and (c) be assured that everyone has their house in order as “required by HUD policy”?
In a June 29, 2012 letter from David Bugher, Assistant City Manager and Director of Community Development, to then-city manager Andrew Neiditz with Lakewood’s HUD program administrator Jeff Gumm copied, Bugher wrote “Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) staff conducted a review of the Center’s compliance with HUD. Staff noted that the Center lacks written policies on financial record keeping, specifically, program-wide revenues and expenditures, payroll expenditures, procurement policies, expenditure reimbursements, and Board oversight.”
All basic. All required. All missing.
And this sad state of affairs in 2012 was found to be unchanged from the sad state of affairs in 2011 per an email from Gumm to then-Center Executive Director Karen Priest.
In a letter dated June 6, 2011 Gumm provided the Center “a spreadsheet on basic requirements for federal grant sub-recipients that clearly delineates the internal controls and accounting records necessary to ensure compliance with federal funding.”
Wonderful. But that’s 2011. Funds received, and funds dispersed, and funds supposedly accounted for “every two to three years” appear not to have been monitored by the City as required by the feds.
Why was the Center, which by 2011 had received somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000, just then being found to be derelict in its oversight duties by the city which itself is charged with the Center’s oversight?
“Playing by the Rules” is a handbook that appears to have been delivered about this time – evidently for the first time – in which the Center’s books were found wanting. A disclaimer opening paragraph suggests the typical “ad hoc” approach subrecipients take to their financial systems is “dangerous.”
But why (a) did the Center receive these “rules” so late in the game; and (b) how is it – given the so-called “requirements” – that these “requirements” are not required BEFORE serves are provided and BEFORE finances begin to flow?
Ironically this past April Fool’s Day the “Accountability & Reform” Senate Full Committee met in Senate Hearing Rm.2 of the J.A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, for a Work Session, on the topic: “Office integrity and ethical standards: Efforts to reduce fraud and improve ethics and public trust in state agencies and local governments.”
A good place to begin is in the beginning where the players understand the rules before playing the game.