State gives Washougal a ‘clean audit’

Report says city lacks internal controls to track its electronics and computer equipment

Former Washougal Mayor Stacee Sellers sent back a city-owned laptop on Dec. 29, 2009 — six weeks after she resigned from office. Sgt. Brad Chicks received the computer two days later at the Washougal Police station. The laptop had been sent from Maryland.

That delay in Sellers returning the computer was recently noted by the State Auditor’s Office in a management letter related to an accountability audit of the city for the fiscal year of 2009. The audit results were released yesterday, with a recommendation that the city create formal written procedures to track, monitor and safeguard all assets “including small and attractive items such as electronics, computer equipment and other items at high risk of misappropriation.”

The auditor’s office recommends the city tag all of its assets, maintain a complete list of all of its property and conduct physical inventories at least every two years.

Mayor Sean Guard said Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg, a former fraud investigative manager for the auditor’s office, will write the procedures to safeguard the city’s assets.

“The city has never had that,” he said.

In a written statement, Guard thanked the City Council and staff for their efforts to work through and correct issues mentioned in previous audits. The most recent “clean” audit recognizes compliance with state and local laws, as well as citywide policies and procedures, in 11 areas including payroll expenditures, general revenue and expenditures, the Open Public Meetings Act and contracts and agreements.

In October 2009, the State Auditor’s Office issued a report 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. The city spent more than $40,000 on Riverfest and $36,000 for the farmers market two years ago.

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 previously declined to answer any questions, saying he never comments on investigations. He has been out of his office since Jan. 27 and is not expected to return until next week.

Guard said yesterday he has not received any communication from Mitchum about the investigation.

“He was pretty up front that things can get tangled,” Guard said. “Tom was the investigator from the Sheriff’s Office in the case involving the Ridgefield school employee who embezzled $800,000. That was over a year before charges were filed.”

Meanwhile, Sellers has moved to the Washington, D.C. area. She is a massage therapist who has owned “a la paix on the Potomac,” an organic massage boutique, since August 2010. Earlier in the year, Sellers received a massage therapy certificate from the National Massage Therapy Institute.

She is seeking a bachelor’s degree in intelligence studies from the American Public University System. Her activities and societies listed online include Arabic, interviewing techniques and public relations.