CFO gets $87,500: Neither PUD nor Caprye can talk about details

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Bob Caprye, who was hired as the Jefferson County Public Utility District’s (PUD) chief financial officer in early 2015 and put on paid leave in May 2016, has been paid $87,500 in a settlement agreement with the PUD.

Per that agreement, neither PUD officials nor Caprye’s attorney, Karen Klein, could discuss the details of the settlement, which The Leader obtained Dec. 12 through an Open Public Records Act request. Both sides are prohibited from making disparaging remarks about the other.

The public utility is self-insured through Public Utility Risk Management Services (PURMS), which represents 19 public utilities in Washington. It has the authority to settle claims on behalf of the PUD.

The seven-page settlement agreement was signed Aug. 26 by Caprye, PUD manager Jim Parker and a PURMS administrator, Richard Rodruck. Rodruck did not return a call for comment.

Klein said Caprye was unavailable for comment.

“He can’t comment. He’s not allowed to comment at all,” said Klein. “We are prohibited from making any comment,” she repeated. That includes on whether she received attorney fees, a detail that was not included in the agreement.

Klein earlier declined to say whether Caprye planned on suing the PUD and on what basis, only that Caprye had retained her to represent him “in this matter.”

PURMS, not the PUD directly, paid Caprye the $87,500.

The PUD paid a deductible on the claim, according to Parker. Parker said the deductible was $200 or $250.

Parker said the PUD paid roughly $26,000 into the pool last year, and this year is paying $60,000. There was a onetime assessment to increase required reserves in the pool this year, he said.

It’s unclear whether the PUD’s insurance rates could increase in light of a second lawsuit filed this year.

Tom Thiersch filed a suit against the PUD in November and specifically Commissioner Wayne King, accusing the PUD and King personally of violating the state Open Public Meetings Act. The PUD has not yet responded to that suit. Thiersch said last week that he expects a response in early January.

The settlement agreement with Caprye spells out what the PUD will do and what Caprye will do to “settle any and all disputes arising out of, or relating to, Caprye’s employment with the JPUD and/or the separation of same.”

The PUD agreed to direct all requests for Caprye’s employment reference to the PUD’s human resources manager and further agreed to confirm the dates of employment and job title only.

EARLIER COMMENTS

Although Caprye could not comment after the settlement agreement, in earlier statements to The Leader before he was let go from the CFO position, Caprye said the root cause of the problem had to do with a lack of accountability, including a lack of job descriptions and internal controls such as proper authorizations.

Caprye also said people were not trained for the jobs they were doing.

“I’m here suffering because I have an organization and people who have never done what they are doing today,” Caprye told The Leader before he was dismissed.

Caprye acknowledged that he was grumpy because “I was in an abyss.”

HISTORY, AUDIT

Caprye’s termination came in the middle of a state audit of financial records that was not completed before Caprye was hired as CFO.

Caprye was the fourth CFO the public utility had had since 2013, when it bought the holdings from the private utility Puget Sound Energy for $115 million.

The 2013 and 2014 finances were incomplete when Caprye took the job in 2015.

Several months after Caprye was terminated this year, the state Auditor’s Office announced that the PUD had a total of eight findings between 2012 and 2014, some of which had to do with missing deadlines.

Caprye replaced Michael Legarsky, former financial director for the City of Port Townsend. Legarsky had replaced David Papendrew, a contracted auditor when the PUD bought the electric system.

Between Papendrew’s and Legarsky’s tenures, the PUD also had hired Greg Kester, who worked for Mason County Public Utility District 1, as an interim financial officer, hoping to hire a more permanent one. He also left.

The PUD has been advertising for a finance director/CFO through a national executive search, with applications due Dec. 15.

Parker said that salary is based to be offered a new CFO will be based on experience.

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