City of Wapato’s operations continue to struggle, recent audits show

Nov 10, 2021

While the city of Wapato's financial safeguards have improved somewhat since the city's last audits, the Office of the Washington State Auditor found significant weaknesses in two audits released today.

“The city had a lot of ground to make up in instituting appropriate polices and controls after our last round of audits. Nevertheless, the public expects all governments to be accountable at all times,” State Auditor Pat McCarthy said. “I am concerned by the pace of improvement in Wapato.”

The Office previously identified major financial and accountability problems, including a $300,000 misappropriation, in audits of the city's 2018 operations.

In the reports issued today, auditors reviewed city activities in 2019 and 2020. (The reports can be found on the State Auditor's Office website here and here.)

Today's reports contain six findings that identify a lack of oversight to ensure:

  • accurate billing, collection and deposits
  • employees are paid properly for time worked
  • credit card payments are for allowable expenses

This city also did not comply with state laws regarding use of restricted resources, spending within budgets, and loaning money between funds.

Finally, the audits found that in 2019, city management disregarded both state law and city policies in a construction project, in paying a vehicle stipend, and other issues. In July of that year, the city administrator agreed to step down to resolve a lawsuit by the state Attorney General's Office accusing him of using his former position as mayor to unlawfully enrich himself. And the then-mayor fired the clerk-treasurer in August, but the city council returned that person to her position in December.

Staff turnover and the implementation of a new accounting software system were noted as causes for the ongoing issues detailed in the audit reports.

“We encourage Wapato officials to continue to reach out to professional associations for assistance and support in implementing their policies and controls,” McCarthy said. “Our Office will continue to monitor the city's progress with regular audits.”

Media inquiries: Kathleen Cooper, Director of Communications – | 360-890-0751