Statement from SPU Director Ray Hoffman:
First of all, on behalf of everyone who works at Seattle Public Utilities, I would like to apologize to our customers. We take the public’s trust seriously and this type of alleged misconduct is unacceptable. It betrays what I consider to be our fundamental mission: to be sound financial stewards of the public’s money.
I would also like to apologize to the City Council members. I hold myself and our department to the highest standards.
Because of this, we have asked the City’s Finance and Administrative Services to hire a third party to assess our financial controls over development permits. We also welcome the City Auditor to provide an assessment of our financial controls to the rest of the department. I’ve also been keeping the Mayor informed. He has instructed us to aggressively investigate and we are doing so.
And finally, I also want to say that I’m sorry to the City of Seattle employees, since these kinds of allegations, if proven to be true, reflect badly on all of us. I believe we, as city employees, are better than this. Each of us comes to work day in and day out to provide important services to our customers, the businesses and residents in Seattle.
While the legal process still needs to determine the guilt or innocence of the former employee who was recently arrested, we are not waiting to take additional action.
Already, since I was named Director in 2010, the department has taken a number of steps to enhance internal accounting procedures, including the introduction of more stringent controls on accounts receivables. Starting over a year ago, we have also undertaken a systematic review of a decade’s worth of department billing data, looking for irregularities and ways to improve our systems.
In fact, SPU’s own internal initiatives are what have led to the investigation that identified the current problems. But we clearly have more work to do. We are committed to putting in place additional policies and procedures to prevent these kinds of misdeeds from happening again in the future.
It saddens me that actions of a handful of individuals have damaged the department’s reputation. Yet, at the same time I acknowledge that if the right internal controls had been in place, the likelihood of such transgressions would have been much smaller.
In closing, let me assure you that the department is also exploring all available avenues for achieving full restitution in these cases. We have been and will continue to cooperate fully with the Seattle Police Department and the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ray Hoffman, Director
Seattle Public Utilities