No charges filed in Washougal investigation

Sheriff's Office report says money from festivals should have been better managed

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After reviewing a detective’s report, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office has decided to not file any charges as a result of the Washougal financial investigation.

The report, prepared by Clark County Sheriff’s Office Det. Tom Mitchum, had referred the case to the prosecutor’s office for review with no recommended prosecutorial action.

A State Auditor’s Office report released in October 2009 mentioned Washougal 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.

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

Mitchum agreed with the auditor’s report that due to insufficient record-keeping and Columbia River Productions LLC’s refusal to participate in the audit or meet with him, he and the auditor were not able to determine if the city or the production company is owed any money or whether public money was misused, lost or misappropriated.

“I have no doubt money invested by the city for their Washougalfest could have been better tracked and managed had the city entered into a formal contract with Columbia River Productions LLC, and that their contract would have provided financial controls for and over the vendors that participated,” Mitchum wrote.

He cited a statement former Mayor Stacee Sellers made to the auditors that the city had no expectations in having a return from sponsoring the centennial Washougalfest, that they wanted this to be a “memorable, fun local event and expected an outlay of public funds.”

In his report, Mitchum referred to the auditor’s investigation that mentions Sellers told city employees to do their jobs as she instructed and pay the bills as she directed.

“The pattern set by the mayor was that no one was to question any expenditure for Washougalfest or Riverfest,” the report stated. “If an expenditure was approved by her, she expected it to be paid and not questioned. As a result, city employees paid out monies to these companies without question.”

As part of his investigation, Mitchum talked to KC Fuller, with Elite Marketing. Fuller had arranged for the Little River Band to play at Washougalfest.

Fuller said Sellers asked him if he could help her and the city by consulting and providing music and media for the festival.

“KC told me at that time he was also involved in real estate,” Mitchum wrote. “He thought if he helped Stacee get the entertainment for their Washougalfest event, he may get a listing for the Hickey commercial property in Washougal.”

Fuller told Mitchum he was not paid anything for his involvement with the event.

In an October 2009 interview with auditors, Sellers confirmed she had a prior business relationship with Joe Listek, owner of Columbia River Productions. Sellers said Listek had approached her regarding managing and promoting Washougalfest.

She had previously worked at Columbia River Productions and Euro Fest Enterprises as a bookkeeper and consultant.

Mitchum states in his report he was not able to see any clear wrongdoing by any parties that would cost the city monies.

“The failure of the city of Washougal to enter into contracts with the vendors for these events is cause for concern but does not reach a criminal level,” he wrote.