Auditor: Lack of oversight led to errors in Sultan finances

For a second time, the state auditor’s office urged the city to improve its financial review process.

SULTAN — The city of Sultan is hiring a third party to review its finances after the State Auditor’s Office warned the town it needs to keep better track of its money.

A lack of oversight in Sultan’s finance department led to errors in financial statements, according to the office.

The errors weren’t significant, but it’s the second year in a row an audit called on the city to improve its process for reviewing finances.

In response to a 2019 audit, the city implemented a review process that requires all documentation to be stamped and dated. But an audit published in November found the same issues remain.

“We clearly did not find that they had corrected the problem enough,” said Kathleen Cooper, director of communications at the State Auditor’s Office.

The city’s finance director prepares most financial statements with little to no oversight, according to the audit. Staff were aware of the internal control deficiencies but resistant to changes.

“I think it’s fair to say that this is a finding relating to difficulty in staffing,” Cooper said.

Like in other small towns, Mayor Russell Wiita said employees of Sultan wear many hats.

The Finance Department currently has four employees: a finance director, a deputy treasurer, a utility clerk and a receptionist.

“The financial statement review is something that a lot of small cities face because you have to have staff trained on all aspects of the financial process,” he said. “…With a limited staff, it’s just not something a lot of cities have.”

To remedy that, Sultan is hiring a third-party contractor to review financial statements, Wiita said. The contractor, Lisa Erdman, previously worked on Sultan’s audits for the State Auditor’s Office and was recommended by the city’s current finance director.

Erdman will provide “another set of eyes outside the city to identify ways we could improve statements or processes,” Wiita said. She begins in the next month or so.

The auditor’s office is required to follow up every year until its concerns are addressed, Cooper said.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439;; Twitter: @sanders_julia.

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