To Our Ratepayers and Members of the Public:
As the Director of Seattle Public Utilities, I know it is essential to maintain your trust and to demonstrate that we are carefully managing your ratepayer money.
Our customers rely on us to deliver some of the highest quality drinking water in the nation, work to reduce waste shipped to landfills, and prevent waste and stormwater from going into local waters.
Recent events, including the alleged fraud by a former employee, are unacceptable. And I want you to know that we are taking quick and strong measures. Shortly after I was named Director in 2010, I established a new Risk and Quality Assurance Division. In fact, it was SPU’s own internal, ongoing initiatives that identified the alleged fraud.
As a result, we put in place more stringent checks and balances for accounts receivable to ensure that people who create our contracts are not the same ones that prepare invoices or receive payments. In addition, we are:
- Working with the City Auditor and the Finance and Administrative Services Department to review and strengthen our procedures for managing all check and cash transactions. To date, our Finance and Administration Deputy Director has met with every single division within Seattle Public Utilities and is already working on an implementation plan and timeline.
- Continuing to cooperate fully with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) regarding its investigation. We anticipate the media will continue to cover the criminal case as it goes through its process. This means you’ll likely hear more news stories in the months to come.
- Pursuing all available avenues for achieving full restitution. The police have already seized some of the stolen funds from the former employee’s private bank account. We have notified the City’s insurance company. And in addition, on SPU’s behalf the City Attorney recently filed a civil case against the former employee, seeking recovery of the stolen funds. At our request, the court has frozen the former employee’s assets, including his City pension fund. SPU will continue to pursue each of these avenues to recover the funds.
More work clearly needs to be done. I fully understand that if we had had tighter internal controls in the first place, the likelihood of the misconduct would have been much smaller.
In closing, let me assure you that I am committed to holding our department to the highest standards. I also plan to provide regular updates on our progress. You’ll hear more from me soon.
Seattle Public Utilities