The Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD) is expecting the Washington State Auditor’s Office to give it a clean financial audit for 2015, the first clean audit since it took over the …
The Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD) is expecting the Washington State Auditor’s Office to give it a clean financial audit for 2015, the first clean audit since it took over the electric system in 2013 from Puget Sound Energy.
“There won’t be any findings, which is tremendous compared to where we were last year,” said PUD General Manager Jim Parker.
Auditor’s Office spokeswoman Kathleen Cooper confirmed Feb. 3 that auditors were not expecting to announce any findings Tuesday, Feb. 7 when they were to meet with PUD commissioners for an exit interview.
The meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday took place after The Leader’s press deadline.
The clean audit follows on the heels last year of state findings for records in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In terms of the number of findings, the 2013-2014 audit was the worst the utility has had in 16 years.
A finding is not common in the vast majority of some 2,000 audits of state and local governments, and it is the most serious of the three levels of audits.
Commissioners voted last May to allow the auditors to do a “disclaimer of opinion,” and agree that the books for 2013-2014 were in such bad shape that the state auditors couldn’t render an opinion on them.
So the fact that 2015’s books are in good shape is good news, Parker said. “And 2016 is almost done as well.”
Parker attributed the improved audit report to interim CFO Tammy Esslinger-Lehman, who was hired, at $165 an hour, to get the books in shape. Newly hired controller Kim Younger also has been working with her.
Parker said the PUD tried to hired Esslinger-Lehman as the permanent chief financial officer, but she declined because she lives in Texas. She comes to the PUD for a week or two at a time and specializes in working with utilities, Parker said.
The PUD also is set to meet in a special session at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 8 to interview a candidate for chief financial officer. Parker said he expects that meeting to be a closed executive session.
If the board were to offer the position to the candidate, Parker said, that would be done in an open meeting. Parker said the candidate is from Georgia and currently is employed, so he did not give her name.
The pay range for the CFO is $120,000-$140,000. Parker currently makes $128,000 a year.
Since firing former CFO Bob Caprye last May, the PUD has been without a CFO. Caprye threatened to sue the PUD; he was paid $87,500 in a settlement agreement in August 2016.
“There aren’t that many people that do this. It’s very hard,” Parker said of the PUD needing a CFO that has experience with
Rural Utility Service (RUS) billing systems. RUS is the arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that gave the PUD a loan to buy PSE’s holdings in East Jefferson County.
The PUD has gone through three permanent and two interim CFOs since 2013.
In addition to several CFOs, the PUD has had several bookkeeping systems.