Letters to the Editor

 


Pleased with council discussion

I was pleased to see the City Council discussing changing the city’s form of government at their worksession on April 22 and they decided to continue their discussion on May 20 when the public can have an opportunity to weigh in on whether sending the issue to the voters would be a step in the right direction.

I believe we would be better served by the council-manager form of government than the current mayor-council form, which has been what we’ve had ever since Mukilteo was first incorporated over 70 years ago in 1947.

The council-manager form of government is a modern solution to removing most of the politics from city operations because it places a highly trained professional municipal administrator as the chief operating officer of the city rather than a well-meaning but untrained politician resident.

Because the city manager is hired by the City Council and serves at the pleasure of the council, the potential conflict between the two branches of government that we’ve seen all too much of recently in Mukilteo is eliminated.

At the April worksession, Councilmember Richard Emery asked if changing the form of government should be a priority for the council, correctly recognizing that to go down the path of change will require a significant amount of council time and staff resources. My response to that is not only is the change a priority, it should be the council’s top priority because if we don’t have the correct governmental structure, everything else suffers.


Councilmember Scott Whelpley, who supports changing the form of government, has said he doesn’t want to wait until May 20 to continue the discussion and will be making a motion at the next council meeting on May 6 to move forward with the required steps to put the issue before Mukilteo voters.

I will be attending both the May 6 and May 20 meetings to help persuade a majority of the council that now is the time for Mukilteo to modernize and change its form of government. At the very least, they need to recognize enough of us are interested in the issue and want the opportunity to vote on it.

I urge my fellow Mukilteans to join me at the council’s May meetings so as a group we can make clear to the council that placing the issue on the November ballot is the direction we want to go.

Glen Pickus

Mukilteo

Define no findings and clean audit report

Editor’s Note: We reached out to Mukilteo Finance Director Michelle Meyer regarding REET II funds. She said to note that items identified in a management letter are not findings, but are recommendations to the city to help improve internal controls. Meyer said the city is in compliance with state laws on REET II uses and reporting requirements, and that as part of the 2020 budget process, the city plans to separate grant and other funding sources from the city’s REET II fund to better show how just the restricted revenues are being spent.

State Auditors Office (SAO) recently issued reports on Mukilteo’s 2017 audit. No “findings” reported, called a clean audit.

SAO also issued a “management letter” to the mayor and council that’s not on the SAO website. It referred to the agreements to continue paying departing employees their salary, most for up to two months. Councilmembers said these agreements were not council-approved, as law requires. Council did not know about them until a councilmember stumbled upon them. Over $250,000 was paid out.

SAO said they could not determine if these agreements were illegal and recommended the council adopt an ordinance, in addition to the law, that spells out when council approval is required. SAO has an Attorney General attorney assigned to them and the law exists. Why couldn’t their attorney make that determination?

Councilmembers said the separation agreements provide for continuation of salary for up to two months or until the former employee gets a job, whichever occurs first. Former employees received lump sum payments upon termination. If they had a new job or found one soon after leaving it would mean they received more than they were entitled to.

SAO top management told me, in writing, that former “employees were paid in accordance with the terms of the agreements.” Although she had not read the agreements, she said she had confidence in the audit staff who read them and they were not going to pursue it further, their reports had been issued. She said the amounts were not significant to the size of Mukilteo.

Another matter in the letter to mayor and council: Mukilteo receives real estate excise tax (REET) from real estate sold. Jan. 1 the law changed restricting maximum use of REET for maintenance to 25 percent.

SAO stated, in writing, “The city could not provide us documentation to trace REET II revenues to specific expenditures for projects. It also did not have a process in place to distinguish projects that are “capital” versus projects that are “maintenance and preservation.” Therefore, we could not determine if the city utilized REET II funds in accordance with the …law.”

REET II taxes are more than $700,000 a year. Not being able to determine if they were spent in accordance with the law was not a reported “audit finding.” Mukilteo’s budget shows spending for maintenance was much more than the law permits.

So much for “clean” audit reports and no reported “findings.”

Charlie Pancerzewski

Former Mukilteo Councilmember

 

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