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State probe targets city CFO

Wed., Feb. 24, 2010

Web site listed Cooley incorrectly as CPA

The State Board of Accountancy is investigating Spokane’s chief financial officer, Gavin Cooley, because of a city Web site that listed him as a certified public accountant, his former designation.

Cooley let his CPA license expire in 2006, but until early this month a city Web site devoted to the city’s investment policy listed Cooley as a CPA.

Rick Sweeney, the board’s executive director, said he made the decision to open the investigation Tuesday based on a complaint filed by Ron Wright, a retired Riverside, Calif., detective who criticized the city’s handling of the development of Spokane’s downtown mall, River Park Square.

In his complaint, Wright argued that the Web site “misleads bond agents, bond investors, and bond raters alike.”

River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Company, which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

City Administrator Ted Danek said the listing on the Web site was an oversight and was removed once it was brought to the city’s attention.

Danek and finance division administrators said this week that they know of no instance in which Cooley or other city representatives purposely misrepresented Cooley’s status.

Cooley said in an e-mail responding to allegations made by Wright that he decided to let his CPA license lapse because “it is not a job requirement and my busy schedule made it difficult for me to meet” education requirements associated with maintaining it. He said he alerted his staff when the change occurred.

“Since then I have never used the CPA designation,” he wrote. “Also, whenever I knew I was listed as a CPA by someone else, I immediately corrected the situation.”

CPAs must fulfill 120 hours of continuing education every three years. The city’s accounting director, Pam Dolan, whom Cooley oversees, remains a CPA.

Sweeney said misuse of the CPA designation is a misdemeanor with a $750 fine. Cooley will have 20 days to respond to the investigation, which likely will last at least 40 days.

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