Despite the recent attention directed at the Douglas County Commissioners, the County Auditor, and the County Prosecutor, these politicians are stubbornly colluding to hide capital assets from the public. What is wrong with these guys? Is it incompetence or is it corruption?
As detailed in this article and this one over the last few months, the Douglas County Commissioners (Republicans), Auditor (Democrat) and Prosecutor (Independant) persist in egregiously violating state law by hiding capital assets from the public. Who says political affiliation must divide us? Incompetence and corruption is politically neutral. This may be one area where all political affiliations can thrive equally. Who says we can’t all get along?
Douglas County politicians and bureaucrats are joined together in a multi-partisan harmony of secrecy and incompetence, and the taxpayers of Douglas County are the real losers from this cozy arrangement. Please note all source documents linked at the end of this article.
Douglas County commissioners commit gross misdemeanors and break the law
A quick refresher to this ongoing sad saga. One of the few Washington State laws that holds elected officials accountable for the capital assets acquired by taxpayer dollars is RCW 36.32.210. Among other things, this law requires once a year for the County Commissioners to create and submit a sworn oath which details all the capital assets owned, purchased or sold by the county the previous year. This “oath of inventory” is to be submitted to the county auditor. Every year this has been true since the early 1930s. It isn’t too tough, and I explain some of the history of this law in this article.
In Douglas County, unique among the 32 code counties of Washington State (there are 39 counties in Washington State, the other seven are Home Rule Charter counties governed under different state laws), the political and bureaucratic leadership chose to ignore this job. Not just once, but for five years in a row! The auditor claimed he never noticed, the commissioners couldn’t be bothered, and the bureaucrats didn’t care either. After all, it isn’t their money.
Failing to do their job is normal for bureaucrats and politicians. Incompetence is the rule rather than the exception in government at all levels. However, this does not make it acceptable or legal. Usually there are no penalties for this type of behavior. However, RCW 36.32.210 has some real penalties for failing to comply. In short, these include gross misdemeanor charges against the commissioners, mandatory removal from office, and the ability for a local taxpayer to bring these charges independent of the prosecutor (clearly the original authors assumed the local prosecutor would be in on the scam, as is the case in Douglas County).
Formal notice was filed against all three Douglas County Commissioners on April 13, and Douglas County Prosecutor Clem provided the anticipated poorly written excuse for their incompetence and failures. Additionally, the Commissioners went on local radio and have claimed repeatedly that they are not violating the law. They made these claims despite this story proving missing assets from the tardy oaths of inventory. These politicians blithely assured the gullible that they had tidied up their inventory lists, etc. I responded to them on local radio here, and one thing pointed out was that there were many more problems with the inventory reports as submitted (which meant they were still in violation of RCW 36.32.210). A few weeks have gone by, so let’s continue to explore this train wreck…
Is it Corruption or just Incompetence?
Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney Clem, Douglas County Auditor Thad Duvall, and Douglas County Commissioners Dale Snyder, Steve Jenkins and Ken Stanton seem to believe this scandal can be swept under the rug at the Waterville Courthouse. They have been provided more than ample time to clean up their act. It shouldn’t be this tough, but they refuse to comply with the law and prefer to violate it instead.
These are the Douglas County Commissioners who have failed to properly track inventory, follow the law, and apparently sell property very well (from left to right – Dale Snyder, Ken Stanton, Steve Jenkins):
Multiple sources in Douglas County have contacted me. Most have remained anonymous. There appears to be some debate in Douglas County government about whether these guys are corrupt or just impressively incompetent. I can’t answer this question with certainty. However, if you work for Douglas County or can provide direct, verifiable evidence of their corruption, I will publish it. You must be able to provide documentation (see more on how to do this here). I have had numerous calls from people afraid to go on the record who claim to hate working for this crew. That is fine, but you still must provide evidence.
More Missing Capital Assets
In the inventory reports hashed together here and rushed out under oath, the following document shows aerial photos of properties owned by Douglas County, but excluded from the Capital Asset lists:
How do I know? Because if you go to the Douglas County Assessor’s website (one local politician not yet implicated in this fiasco) here, and search for properties owned by Douglas County, you will find a list of at least 48 properties. The first nine are photographed above and they are nowhere to be found in the Capital Asset Lists of Douglas County. Do your own verification, check out the other properties and you will find most of them not on this list as well. Why did they hide these capital assets from the inventory reports? Well, according to the Douglas County politicians and bureaucrats they didn’t hide them, yet they are not listed on their legal inventory lists. However, you can spend 5 minutes on the Assessor’s website yourself and find these missing properties. Who are you going to believe? Your lying eyes or the lying politicians?
That isn’t all, there is more…
Here are two properties which did show up on some of the inventory lists, but which disappeared from the lists (appropriately) after they were sold. However, there was no disclosure in the Capital Assets list of their sale (which is also required by law):
- Tax Parcel #222010819160 – house – Purchased by Douglas County March 26, 2007 for $270,000, sold to private citizen August 21, 2014 for $200,000. Loss of $70,000 to Douglas County, unreported in Capital Asset Sales report for 2014.
- Tax Parcel #222010819165 – house – Purchased by Douglas County April 27, 2007 for $270,000, sold to private citizen January 23, 2015 for $179,000. Loss of $91,000 to Douglas County, unreported in Capital Asset Sales report for 2015.
As detailed in this article about another strange mystery property sold at an unusually low value and kept off the capital asset inventory report, these two properties were also sold for substantially less than they were purchased. The Douglas County taxpayers lost $161,000 just on these two transactions alone. It looks like the Douglas County Commissioners have also been incompetent when it comes to property management or selling properties. Only the Douglas County taxpayers suffer for this. Judging from just these two properties and the one detailed in this recent article – these guys shouldn’t be allowed to purchase or sell
anything without some adult supervision.
Okay, Douglas County is screwed up – the bureaucrats botch their jobs and the politicians keep breaking the law, what can you do?
If you want solutions and options rather than just exposing the bad behavior in local government, here are some options for you to make a difference and take some action:
- If you are an attorney and would like to prosecute the County Commissioners under RCW 36.32.210, I have been approached by many local residents who want to be your client. You have an opportunity to plow new legal precedence and here is the clownish and weak defense the Prosecutor will use. I recommend having this case tried in a different county, of course.
- If you are a whistleblower with verifiable information here is how you can contact me.
- If you want to contact these elected politicians yourself, question them, laugh at them, or just see if politicians like this really exist contact them here:
- Douglas County Auditor Thad Duvall (does this guy even understand his job?)
- Douglas County Commissioners -all three (why do they insist on violating the law and what else are they hiding?)
- Douglas County Prosecutor Steven Clem (why does this guy work overtime to cover up corruption and incompetence in Douglas County?)
- We do have elections for a reason, you can help anyone running against these guys. Two of the Commissioners are up for election in 2016, and the other three politicians are up for election in 2018. Start recruiting alternative choices now. Neither incompetence nor corruption like this should be rewarded.
- Finally, if this story inspires you and you don’t live in Douglas County, look into your local government. You never know what you might find…
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.
Tax Parcel #222010819160 – house – Purchased by Douglas County March 26, 2007 for $270,000, sold to private citizen August 21, 2014 for $200,000. Loss of $70,000 to Douglas County, unreported in Capital Asset Sales report for 2014.
Tax Parcel #222010819165 – house – Purchased by Douglas County April 27, 2007 for $270,000, sold to private citizen January 23, 2015 for $179,000. Loss of $91,000 to Douglas County, unreported in Capital Asset Sales report for 2015.