Tuesday, July 08, 2008

State Auditor provides no legitimate oversight.

July 8, 2008

Brian Sonntag

Dear Mr. Sonntag:

Thank you for your response to two of my many concerns regarding the Edmonds School District. Your response leaves me, and many others, appalled by what passes for an audit these days. If the Internal Revenue Service conducted personal audits in a similar fashion, no one would pay federal income tax but rather expect a meaningless letter to arrive more than a year after someone else decided to complain.

Piano Scheme

First, the evidence for conflicting interests is abundantly clear. Ms. Miller and Mr. Osborne met with Mr. Tucker numerous times outside of and prior to this piano transaction. They had an established relationship through the Edmonds Jazz Festival and connections through Rotary in Edmonds going back a number of years.

Second, the piano "lease" was crafted with the sole purpose of transferring ownership of a number of pianos from Seattle Piano Gallery to the Edmonds School District. Taking possession of these pianos under the auspices of a lease scheme was merely a ruse to avoid legally required procurement processes.

Perhaps your audit team never viewed a summary of the scheme drafted by the attorney for Mr. Tucker. It may also be found at

Recommending that the District use a legally required process for future transactions confirms that this transaction was, in your opinion and in fact, illegal. Why would any law-abiding entity have to be reminded to follow the law?

Purchase of Land

First, a point of clarification. I never stated a belief that the District "paid more than the asking price" for the new administration site. The District paid every cent of the seller's asking price of $5.6 million immediately after their own appraisal determined the value to be $3.3 million and without regard for obvious and documented contamination.

Second, the District's own Board Policy requires that a Site Acquisition Committee be convened, in writing, by the Superintendent prior to the purchase of land. That never happened. The closest thing to such a committee was a group of consultants all advising the District not to buy the property.

Third, state law requires a review appraisal. WAC 468-100-103 "A qualified reviewing appraiser shall examine all appraisals…" A school board may be elected by voters and have the power to make decisions to buy property but the voters do not expect their elected officials to disobey the law.

If I wasn't a resident and taxpayer in the State of Washington, I would find it uncomfortably funny that the State Auditor stands behind the statement that an appraisal is required but need not govern the final purchase price. The State Attorney General has numerous published opinions that call such overpayments a gift of public funds.

As a public employee with continued involvement in the procurement of goods, services and property, I am flabbergasted by the lack of oversight provided by the State Auditor and, quite frankly, embarrassed by your dismissive attitude toward the misappropriation of millions of taxpayer dollars.


Mark Zandberg


Anonymous said...

Any "reasonable person" reading the letter from the Lawyer Henry should be appalled. It is a bright neon sign flashing in the night saying "Don't mind us while we conspire to violate state law."

It is very disappointing that those who are supposed to protect the public have failed to do so.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is shocking. I wonder if he will say those things in court.