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Audit raises concerns with county parks

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 money 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 lake facilities 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 contained 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 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 was also when auditors visited.

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 the steps the department took, which the auditor said showed a commitment to resolving the problems – but the office will check back to see if the problems are fixed.

The audit also criticized a countywide process for purchasing items between $2,500 and $25,000. Such items don’t need to be put out for bid, but prices must be checked by getting at least three 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. A review of 27 quotes shows that nearly half came from vendors not on the approved list. A review of eight purchases shows that five were from vendors not on the approved list.

County Chief Executive Officer Marshall Farnell said the Purchasing Department changed procedures several months ago after receiving the preliminary audit report, to “make sure that anyone who wants to do business with the county is on the lists.”

There is some disagreement over compiling the lists and whether the county always must refuse to purchase items that would be much cheaper just because a local 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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