Washougal financial investigation continues

$100,000 remain unaccounted for

After more than a year and a half of investigating where approximately $100,000 in revenue generated from city-sponsored festivals could have gone to, Clark County Sheriff’s Office Detective Tom Mitchum is proceeding on –– with no comment and no anticipated time frame for completion.

Mitchum’s supervisor Sgt. of Major Crimes Kevin Allais said yesterday it is still an active case.

“We are actively investigating it at this point,” Allais said.

He said it is not unusual for investigations to take more than a year to complete.

“We have many, many cases, and we have to triage them accordingly,” Allais added.

Mayor Sean Guard said he has not heard anything about the investigation in quite a while.

“The last update I received via voice mail from Detective Mitchum was many months ago,” he said. “He still had some items he was looking into.”

During an interview Thursday, Council member Molly Coston said it was her understanding that the financial investigation had been closed.

“I was mistaken,” she said later. “I thought the case was closed, but that was the case from the auditor’s office. That case was closed.

“I checked my files, but I could not find any reference to closure of the investigation,” Coston added yesterday. “I am certain that there would be some official notice if that were the case, so I must have been mistaken when I mentioned it last week.”

An audit report released in October 2009 mentioned the city was not able to account for approximately $100,000 in revenue generated from festivals, including Washougalfest in 2008 and Riverfest in 2009. The audit findings also mentioned the city did not have any recorded revenue from the Washougal Main Street Market.

The city paid the Downtown Revitalization and Implementation Committee $75,000 in 2008 and $50,000 in 2009 for its event management services. The DRIC was not included in the city budget in 2010 or 2011.

After the auditor’s office was unable to determine what happened to some of the revenue from the festivals, Guard asked the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to proceed with a criminal investigation and determine if any laws were broken or if city funds were misappropriated.

The auditor’s report mentioned there were interviews with Guard, current and former city staff members, council members, former Mayor Stacee Sellers, DRIC employees and vendors, to determine how certain city events were managed.

The auditor’s office requested documents from the city, DRIC and Columbia River Productions LLC –– a primary vendor that helped stage Washougalfest –– to determine what happened to proceeds that should have been deposited in the city’s account.

“Records we received from the city and the non-profit [DRIC] were insufficiently detailed to allow us to make this determination,” wrote Jennifer Forsberg, a fraud investigative manager for the auditor’s office, in March 2010. “The vendor declined to provide records related to these events. The vendor also declined numerous requests for an interview.

“For the three events in question, we also found no written agreement among any of the parties for this event that spelled out responsibilities and payments,” she added. “Therefore, we are unable to determine whether public resources were misused, lost or misappropriated.”

Forsberg was hired as the Washougal Finance Director in July 2010.

Guard said in March 2010 Sellers had previously listed Columbia River Productions as an employer on her annual state financial declaration filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

“The information that the former Washougal mayor was employed by the major company involved with the special events certainly appears to violate a number of conflict of interest policies and raises more concerns about how things transpired,” he said.

Former mayor has several careers and plans to write a book

After resigning as mayor in November 2009, Sellers moved to the Washington, D.C. area. She is listed online as a founder at iRealtorAssistant, as well as a social media and marketing consultant at Talk The Talk Fusion and owner and massage therapist at a la paix on the Potomac.

In her Linked In summary, Sellers mentions she was in “small town politics.”

“Building relationships came naturally for me,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, things went downhill very quick. I had a rough re-election campaign which I was not prepared for and found myself out of office, penniless and lonely. I decided I needed a complete transformation.

“I wanted to have an abundance of quality friendships,” Sellers added. “I also never wanted to be out of money. I wanted to become a millionaire and use network marketing as that vehicle. It was an excellent education, and I am dedicated to my company iRealtorAssistant. I am on the right track now, and I love what I do.”

Sellers said she is working on her first book “Foreplay: How to Get Back on Top.”

“This is my experiences of letting go of negativity, self doubt, judgment and fear and living the life I always dreamed I could.”