Wapato faulted in state audit for mismanaged funds - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Wapato faulted in state audit for mismanaged funds

Posted: Updated:

4-5-18 UPDATE:

WAPATO, WA - During Wednesday's discussion about the City of Wapato's state audit, names were called out.

The audit goes back three years and indicates the City failed to comply with state financial laws and found thousands of dollars missing. Several council members addressed the issue.

"We see what we suspected all along," said Juan Orozco, Mayor of Wapato.

"The budget was fluffed and it wasn't accurate, it wasn't true," said Robin Cordova, the City Clerk treasurer. "So now we have to go back and we have to overhaul the budget and put in some significant real numbers."

The financial and the accountability audit report recommends the City should control funds in the jail, police department, cash receipts, cemetery services, and the disbursement of credit cards and transactions.

Council members mentioned several of these issues and singled out former employees.

"Under Dave Simmons, the police department under-billed over $7,000 on their housing," Orozco said.

"The jail under Simmons, when he was the chief there was a problem with the commissary money," said Cordova.

We reached out to Dave Simmons, former police chief for the Wapato Police Department for his side of the issue.

"So much of the audit issues and the financial problems within the jail structure occurred even before I even arrived, and we took immediate issues on fixing some of the audit issues," Simmons said.

He says he became police chief in October of 2016, and the audit looks at years 2015 through 2017. He also explains issues council members stated happened while Simmons was employed.

"Police cars driven home, accountability, the City had a policy when I arrived about taking home police cars, it's within union contract that occurred long before I arrived and I had no option but to follow union contract," said Simmons.

Simmons mentioned a list of issues he noticed wrong when he was hired and that he had tried to fix, but he says he does not deserve to be singled out. 

It's also important to note that to solve the budget problems the City is facing, Mayor Orozco decided to let go of both the police and fire chiefs - both positions are now overlooked by the public safety director.

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4-4-18 UPDATE:

WAPATO, WA - A few members of Wapato's city council held a meeting to discuss why the City is being investigated for a state audit, which goes back to three years.

The mayor of Wapato, Juan Orozco, says the audit reflects something council members saw all along, which is financial theft and mismanagement of funds at City Hall.

As the actual amount of money missing is still being determined, Orozco says he cannot comment on who is responsible for the missing money because there is an ongoing investigation.

However, he did say he noticed something was wrong when people were being sold cemetery plots that were already in use.

Regardless of being aware of these issues, Orozco says he still decided to run for mayor with the purpose of bringing change to the community... something he has already done.

"The very first move I made is remove the administration that was involved with the City when this all was taking place and people were shocked," Orozco said. "What we are doing is stopping any further internal corruption and mismanagement and irresponsible behaviors."

Orozco also said that by letting go of the fire and police chief, the City will now be saving $200,000 a year. Both of those positions are now being overlooked by the public safety director, Michael Campos.

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4-3-18 ORIGINAL STORY:

WAPATO, WA (AP) - A Washington state audit found one of its cities failed to comply with state financial laws, regulations and its own policies when it mismanaged public funds.
 
The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the audit released Monday says a large sum of money appears to be missing from Wapato City Hall. The financial blunder appears to have happened before Mayor Juan "Eddy" Orozco took office in early December.
 
The funding loss is under investigation.
 
The audit recommends the city take steps to better safeguard public funds across several city operations, including its jail, police department, cemetery, use of credit cards and the handling of cash and billings.
 
Orozco says since he took office he has worked aggressively to restructure city management and staff. He says the restructuring efforts will improve efficiency and save $470,000 annually in salary alone.

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