State audit dings Walla Walla County Housing Authority

The authority cites accounting and management problems at the former Farm Labor Homes.

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WALLA WALLA — Reports released this week from the Washington State Auditor’s Office show problems continue to plague Walla Walla County Housing Authority, including a case of “reported loss of public funds.”

The county housing authority formerly managed the Farm Labor Homes development as its sole property. In May the property, now known as Valle Lindo, was transferred to Walla Walla Housing Authority.

On May 15 Amy Allred, Walla Walla Housing Authority finance director, notified the state Auditor’ Office that two prior Farm Labor Homes property managers, Jodi Lindquist and Lisa Vasquez, allegedly included their personal utility charges as part of the housing authority’s electric bill expense.

Employment agreements did not support such action as part of a compensation package. The auditor’s office staff found that lack of adequate oversight led to a loss of $4,652 between Jan. 1, 2007 and May 2 this year through personal utility payments.

The case has been referred to Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle. Nagle said today he has not yet received the report.

The auditor’s office recommended the county housing authority seek recovery of the missing funds and investigations costs of $1,672 from the former property managers.

In its independent accountability audit spanning from Jan. 1, 2010, to May 2, state officials found the county housing authority failed to provide its accounting firm with timely and adequate information.

Problems with timeliness were previously noted in a 2008-2009 audit, when investigators found the county housing authority had failed to fulfill reporting requirements for loans of $1,503,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that were used to build housing for farm laborers. Those loans go back as far as 36 years, the auditor’s office said.

The loan requires the housing authority to submit an annual financial report and supplementary information to the USDA. During the 2008-2009 audit, the USDA reported the county housing authority had not filed any components of its annual financial report or USDA-required supplemental information for any of the fiscal years in the audit period.

Washington state law requires local governments to submit annual financial reports to the state auditor within 150 days of the end of the fiscal year. The county housing authority did not file its annual financial report for any of the fiscal years in the recent audit period, nor did it submit required financial reports to Walla Walla County, the Auditor’s Office said.

The five-member county housing authority board, appointed by Walla Walla County commissioners, also did not ensure the appointed property manager — responsible for preparing the accounting for Farm Labor Homes — had technical expertise needed for accuracy and completion of reports. That resulted in incorrect titles on financial statements, missing information on cash flow statements and no backup documentation for financial journal entries, the Auditor’s Office said.

The board also did not check to make sure findings by the certified public accounting firm could be confirmed.

These and other problems are part of the reason county housing authority board members sought partnership with Walla Walla Housing Authority, said Kate Bobrow-Strain, the county authority’s board president, in her response to state auditors.

She declined to comment further to the Union-Bulletin.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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