Fraud expert is new Washougal finance director

Jennifer Forsberg has worked for the State Auditor's Office

A woman who worked for the State Auditor’s Office for nine years has been hired as the finance director for the City of Washougal.

Jennifer Forsberg is expected to start her new job next week — pending the concurrence of City Council. The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 7 p.m.

For the last four years, Forsberg has been the fraud investigative manager for the auditor’s office.

Mayor Sean Guard announced her hiring during the council workshop last night.

“I believe we have made an excellent hire,” he said. “It may be viewed by some that it is ironic that the person who conducted the fraud investigation of the former mayor and administration was hired to head the finance department that was somewhat at the middle of it all,” he said. “But then again, there should be no question that we have taken steps to move away from those days and have hired someone who has experience and knowledge of how to run a department and who is also above reproach in terms of experience, ethics and morals.

“I’m not sure the city could have made a better hire — in terms of closing out that chapter and bringing integrity back to that important position,” Guard added.

Forsberg, 35, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington State University. She is a certified fraud expert.

Forsberg lives outside the city limits of Washougal with her husband and three children.

Assistant Finance Director R.J. Stevenson has been serving as the interim finance director/city clerk since Jeffrey Bivens’ employment with the city was terminated on Dec. 7, 2009.

In January, Bivens agreed to a settlement offer that included five months of pay. He had been earning $9,167 a month, since mid-May 2009.

The State Auditor’s Office issued a report in October 2009 that mentioned Washougal was not able to account for approximately $100,000 in revenue generated from city-sponsored festivals — including Washougalfest in 2008 and Riverfest in 2009.

Last year, the city spent more than $40,000 on Riverfest and $36,000 for the farmers market. 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 conduct a criminal investigation and determine if any laws were broken or if city funds were misappropriated.

Sheriff’s Det. Tom Mitchum has declined to answer any questions, saying he never comments on investigations.

Guard’s request to open a criminal investigation followed the results of the special audit undertaken by the State Auditors Office.

“That office could not conclude what happened to missing funds, due to individuals refusing to speak with them,” he said. “In a criminal investigation, law enforcement has more powers to compel people to cooperate or to subpoena records.”

Forsberg will be expected to attend a mid-year strategic planning session with Guard, City Council members and department heads Saturday, July 31, at 9 a.m., in the Washougal Community Center, 1681 “C” St. The session is expected to conclude by 4 p.m. For more information, contact City Hall at 835-8501 or visit www.ci.washougal.wa.us.

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