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Spin Control

County pools swimming in cash, and that’s a bad thing auditor says

The Spokane County Parks Department’s fiscal controls over two of its pools were so lax last year that the cash registers were overflowing with cash and sometimes left unattended, a state auditor’s report said.

Parks staff didn’t keep good track of swimming passes, didn’t calculate sales tax correctly or submit it on time, didn’t properly track inventory at its concessions and had other problems at its lakes and golf courses, a report released this week by State Auditor Brian Sonntag said.

“The cash registers at the North- and Southside pools were not cleared of excess cash during the day,” the report says, noting that they sometimes had more than $1,000, mostly in small bills. “Money fell out of the registers because they were so full.”


Parks Director Doug Chase said Tuesday the problems were a result of the new Southside Pool opening last year without enough trained staff, and policies not being followed by the new hires. The first week pools were open they had twice the projected attendance, he said. That coincided with the week the auditors visited.

When the problems arose, the department added more cash registers, tightened policies and gave the staff additional training. But by then the auditors were gone, Chase said.

The audit lists all the steps the department has taken, which the auditor said showed a commitment to resolving the problems – but the office will check back to see if they are fixed.

The audit also faulted the county’s process for purchasing items between $2,500 and $25,000. Items in that range don’t need to be put out for bid, but do need to be checked against at least three price quotes from vendors on an approved list maintained by the county.

But sometimes the Purchasing Department didn’t get three quotes, or explain why three quotes weren’t obtained. It reviewed 27 quotes and discovered that nearly half from vendors not on the approved list; it reviewed eight purchases and five were from vendors not on the approved list.

County Chief Executive Officer Marshall Farnell said the Purchasing Department has made changes in the procedures for getting quotes in recent months after receiving the preliminary findings from the state auditor in an attempt to “make sure that anyone who wants to do business with the county is on the lists.”

There is some disagreement over how the lists are compiled, and whether the county always must refuse to purchase items with a significantly lower quote just because the vendor isn’t on the list, Farnell added. “We’re doing everything we possibly can to comply with it,” he said of the report

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