Just how screwed up is the capital asset and inventory situation in Douglas County?
It appears that the Douglas County Commissioners, the County Prosecutor Steven Clem, and the County Auditor Thadd Duvall all have colluded to hide the possession and sale of capital assets valued over $1 Million from the public. Why did they do this?
A few weeks ago I wrote an article pointing out that the Douglas County Commissioner Stanton, Snyder (typo on the official government website – for some reason they spelled it “Synder”), and Jenkins had violated Washington State law (RCW 36.32.210) and committed multiple gross misdemeanors in the process. They failed to comply with the requirement to report all capital assets and inventory on an annual basis along with the inventory purchased or sold for the previous year. It looked bad then. It looks worse now.
It was predicted that the County Prosecutor would jump to their defense and claim they did not violate the law. Prosecutor Clem promptly did as predicted once formal notice of violation was sent to his office (linked here). His response is linked here (please note, his reply document title contains a typo, the correct RCW is 36.32.210). For the attorneys reading this article, please read the prosecutor’s response and see if this would be your defense for your clients.
As mentioned in the previous article on this subject, this law was written in the 1930s to protect the taxpayers from a rash of corruption caused by unscrupulous politicians buying and selling capital assets for personal benefit, crony insider deals, or generally doing all sorts of nefarious deeds with the people’s resources. This law was passed to make corruption more difficult. Most counties in Washington State comply with it as part of their inventory tracking process.
However, it turns out that the sworn oath of the Douglas County Commissioners (linked here) rushed out in late March once they realized they were caught – is still missing some major capital assets. Effectively, this means inventory is kept off-books. Keep in mind, the County Prosecutor and the County Auditor went public stating that there was no missing inventory, all was accounted for and everything was ship-shape in Douglas County. I have linked many source documents backing up these claims at the end of this article. Feel free to verify, download, and check everything for yourself.
Example #1 -Ghosting both the ownership of real property and the sale of land
Here is just one example of a significant piece of property owned by Douglas County since 1991 that has been conveniently kept off the books and didn’t show up in the inventory reports from 2010 (back when they did file these reports regularly), nor does it show up on the five-year late rushed inventory report from 2011 (and signed by the county commissioners a few weeks ago in March) and most disturbingly, even the capital asset sale for $350,000 in 2012 wasn’t reported in that year’s report either. The property, according to the county’s own records was worth $1.3 million.
We are not talking about an old computer printer missing in the
back closet here. This is a large 12.57 acres of frontage on the Apple Capital Loop Trail, located in East Wenatchee – the largest city in Douglas County, and located right next to one of the busiest highways (Highway 28) in the area. Half the county commutes past this piece of property every day. Yet, it was missing from the inventory reports that the County Commissioners, County Prosecutor, and the County Auditor all swore in writing and reported to the media were accurate. It was missing from these reports even after they received attention from myself and others that these inventory reports were being scrutinized. How many more capital assets have been sold or are floating around like this ghost inventory?
I have attached a large number of documents about this piece of property and the sale of the property, including a detailed timeline of internal correspondence at the county. The land transaction itself seems odd in both the nature of the sale, the low price the county received, the convenience of the final rushed timing of the sale (according to these Wenatchee World articles at the time – here, here, and here – there were financial challenges in Douglas County). It is also odd that the county historically changed their ordinances (which is legal, but not typical) to allow the county to avoid compliance with traditional state law regarding public notice, bidding, etc for public land sales.
I’ve attached the convoluted and disjointed inventory reports which the county produced during this time (and which are filled with more legal violations)- feel free to see if you can find this property anywhere in these documents.
Just how screwed up is the capital asset and inventory situation in Douglas County? Here are some questions local citizens should ask:
- Does anyone in Douglas County government take responsibility for this unfolding inventory mess, or is Prosecutor Clem going to continue to defend the indefensible?
- Does anyone at the Douglas County Auditor’s office audit anything? Do they have any controls over their assets?
- If a million dollar 12+ acre property that half the county residents see every day can be missing in the matrix, what the heck else is missing?
- Prosecutor Clem was personally involved in the sale of this ghost property. See the emails referenced in this timeline regarding the five year process of selling the property. Why did he keep both the sales and the ownership of this property out of the inventory reports?
- Why does anyone have confidence that these guys know what they are doing?
- How does a County Auditor miss something this big? He can’t trot out the Washington State Auditor’s “Gold Star, Everyone’s a Winner” report as political cover. That document doesn’t mean anything since the state auditor rarely even looks at the Capital Asset Reports.
- How many more articles like this do I have to write before someone in Douglas County government decides to clean up the mess and take their jobs seriously?
I almost forgot. Which local resident is going to file the citizen action against the Douglas County Commissioners as outlined in RCW 36.32.210(5) and have them charged with gross misdemeanors and removed from office?
If you don’t live in Douglas County or Washington State – you should research your local government to see how they manage the property and assets they purchased with your tax dollars. If you want to contact these elected officials and ask these questions yourself, here is how you can reach them:
Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.” It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people. It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government. It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.” Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed…
Related articles and Referenced Source Documents:
OfficialNoticeofViolation-SenttoDouglasCountyApril132016 This was a copy of the official “notice” of violation I emailed Prosecutor Clem April 13, 2016.
Memo Re RCW 3622210 (1) This is the response from Prosecutor Clem April 15, 2016
Letter to BCC regarding inventory 03222016 This is the letter from Dana Prewitt, Douglas County Clerk of the Board, recognizing the failure to file inventory reports for 5 years – March 22, 2016 (also with odd typo on the RCW # in the title). This was filed after local citizens filed a public records request for these documents.
2011-2015 Oath This is the official “oath of inventory” rushed out by Douglas County Commissioners once they realized they have been violating state law for five years. March 22, 2016. Note that the lists were not attached (as the law requires) but were referenced as files.
Wenatchee World_1 June 4, 2013 – Douglas County may seek sales tax increase for law and justice budget
Wenatchee World_2 – May 15, 2012 – Meetings set to discuss proposed Douglas County sales tax increases
Wenatchee World_3 -June 4, 2013 – Douglas County tax increase to be removed from ballot
Reference Doc_1 – Map and description of 12.7 acre parcel off Hwy 28 owned and sold by Douglas County, but not listed on their inventory reports.
Reference Doc_2 Original Purchase of property in 1991. Source document
Reference Doc_3 Signed Purchase and Sale Agreement for 12.7 acre property for $350,000
Reference Doc_4 This is a 2011 Douglas County document indicating value of $1.3 million for this 12.7 acre parcel which was sold for $350,000.
19th street timeline – This is a 10 page timeline based on emails and other records received by records request from Douglas County regarding correspondence about this property until the final date of sale and disposition of the capital asset. For some reason, despite this, the property never shows up on Douglas County’s Capital Asset Reports. If you want copies of the actual files referenced here, I would have to either email them to you or upload them to a Dropbox account.