Northwest NEWS

July 31, 2000

Business

Woodinville Water District reorganizes and looks ahead

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Staff Reporter
   WOODINVILLEčRecent news reports of fraud and the use of district resources for personal benefit by some Woodinville Water District employees is not so recent.
   Actually, it happened months ago, according to General Manager Bob Bandarra. Since then, the Woodinville Water District has been taking steps to correct the troubled work situation and to see that it doesn't arise again in the future.
   "The Board of Commissioners authorized a district reorganization at their May 30th meeting." Bandarra said. "We've been making a number of changes. We've eliminated mid-level management. There's better communication. Better checks and balances."
   The Woodinville Water District doesn't deny there have been problems.
   In a newsletter to their customers, Commissioner Ken Goodwin stated that when the District became aware of allegations of misconduct, they directed legal counsel to investigate.
   During the investigation, improper actions by at least one department manager came to light. This initiated a more thorough investigation by the District.
   A lawyer who had no prior involvement with the District and who was skilled in employment law was hired. The in-depth investigation revealed misconduct by several employees.
   One department manager was asked to resign. And another resigned before the investigation was completed.
   In a state audit, the District's accounting records were found to have been falsified to cover up improper use of district resources.
   State Auditor Brian Sonntag said, "Our concern and focus is where do we go from here?"
   He said his office is willing to help the District with its reorganization effort. Sonntag also explained that his office does not set the controls but is willing to help after the controls are in place by the District. "They're the ones who put the fix in place," he said.
   To correct the problems, the District approved a major reorganization to address internal management issues.
   General Manager Bandarra said that the elimination of mid-level management provides better access for employees to get information to him.
   In the past, he said, information had been precluded by some managers and never reached him.
   Some of the news reports of district misconduct included: misuse of district time and equipment; inappropriate use of a district computer; conducting a side business on district time; engaging in off-site social activities on district time.
   However, on the positive side, all the employees responsible for the misconduct are no longer with the District.
   District spokesperson Deborah Rannfeldt wanted customers to know that the District is grateful to them and said, "Many of our customers have offered words of support through this difficult time. We appreciate the support."
   In the District's newsletter, Commissioner Goodwin wanted Woodinville Water District customers to know that the District is healthy financially and is continuing to provide safe, reliable and abundant drinking water.
   Speaking for the Board of Commissioners at the conclusion of the newsletter, Goodwin stated, "While we are currently in the middle of very unpleasant circumstances, we are convinced we will come out of this a stronger organization."