Audit finds errors cost sheriff’s office $170k in lost grants

By WARREN CORNWALL

Herald Writer

CSloppy bookkeeping cost the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office more than $170,000 worth of grant funding, which the county is now trying to recover, a newly released audit says.

The money is part of an assortment of accounting problems state auditors found in the sheriff’s office, all revolving around federal grants used to pay for new officers, equipment and drug enforcement efforts.

The audit also mentioned $7,140 was missing from the evidence room, but steps have been taken to correct that problem.

County officials are working to remedy the accounting missteps by changing one staff position from a clerical post to a financial analyst in the proposed 2001 budget, and by offering assistance from the county’s finance department.

Sheriff Rick Bart said the problems arose as his department used federal grants to put more officers on the street but didn’t increase staff to manage funding.

"As we’ve added staff and gone through all these cop grants, we’ve maintained our support staff at the same level, and it’s caught up with us," Bart said.

The county has asked the federal government if the department can still collect money it could have been reimbursed for earlier, Bart said. That includes roughly $126,000 lost when the office failed to seek appropriate reimbursements for spending by cities and officers, the audit says. Another $51,000 for equipment installation could have been recouped as well.

"We think they’ll cooperate with us," Bart said of the U.S. Department of Justice, which administers the program.

The errors appear as Bart lobbies the county council for a funding boost. The sheriff has argued that he lacks the money to train officers, maintain specialty teams such as a riot-control unit, and still put enough deputies on the street. He has said the additional two officers in the budget proposed by County Executive Bob Drewel is inadequate.

Bart said he didn’t think the audit would hurt those efforts. He noted the financial analyst position will likely be approved.

The audit also found the sheriff’s office had taken steps to improve control of drugs and money brought into the evidence room — but not before the potential loss of $7,140 from an evidence room.

Auditors reported that the money, related to a case, was discovered missing from evidence in 1999. The discovery sparked an investigation by the sheriff’s office and Everett Police Department, which ended with the agencies concluding no person could be blamed, according to the report.

Bart said the money could have been misplaced in the jam-packed evidence rooms, or it could have been returned to someone or destroyed and the paperwork simply wasn’t completed.

The money’s absence was discovered when someone assigned to organize the evidence found documents indicating the money should have been there, he said.

"To me it’s incredible that you can’t find the money," he said.

Bart said he did not suspect theft by an employee.

"My employees work very hard, and I trust them. I think it’s a paperwork shuffle of some kind."

Everett spokesman Boyd Bryant said he was unable to reach officers involved in the investigation.

The only other problem singled out in the audit was discrepancies between the county finance department’s accounting information, and the cash book maintained by the treasurer’s office.

Auditors found a $1.3 million discrepancy between the two, something that could have resulted from timing differences in how revenues are reported, or problems with computer connections between the two offices, according to the report. The report noted such differences left the county vulnerable to misappropriation of money.

County finance director Dan Clements said the problem could be traced to a 1999 overhaul of the computer system in the treasurer’s office and trouble getting it to communicate properly with his department’s computers.

Rachel Solemsaas, the finance department’s controller, said a check found no evidence that the accounting imbalance was a result of theft.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood woman sentenced for stabbing Bellingham woman while she slept

Johanna Paola Nonog, 23, was sentenced last week to nine years in prison for the July 2022 stabbing of a woman she’d recently met.

Granite Falls
Man presumed dead after fall into river near Granite Falls

Around 5 p.m. Sunday, the man fell off smooth rocks into the Stillaguamish River. Authorities searched for his body Monday.

Pilot found dead near Snoqualmie Pass after Arlington flight

Jerry Riedinger’s wife reported he never made it to his destination Sunday evening. Wreckage of his plane was found Monday afternoon.

Firefighters respond to a fire on Saturday morning in Lake Stevens. (Photo provided by Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
1 woman dead in house fire east of Lake Stevens

Firefighters responded to find a house “fully engulfed in flames” in the 600 block of Carlson Road early Saturday.

YMCA swim instructor Olivia Beatty smiles as Claire Lawson, 4, successfully swims on her own to the wall during Swim-a-palooza, a free swim lesson session, at Mill Creek Family YMCA on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Splish splash! YMCA hosts free swim lessons around Snohomish County

The Y is building a “whole community” of water safety. On Saturday, kids got to dip their toes in the water as the first step on that journey.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

The Eternal Flame monument burns in the center of the Snohomish County Campus on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Elected officials to get 10% pay bump, or more, in Snohomish County

Sheriff Susanna Johnson will see the highest raise, because she was paid less than 10 of her own staff members.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.