Experience (Max 500 characters)
I have been a law enforcement officer in Washington for the past 11 years. Additionally, I spent 3 years as a law enforcement auditor in Seattle PD’s Audits and Inspections Unit. I graduated with a B.S. in Molecular Biology from UW. I am also in the process of completing a masters of business administration with an emphasis in finance from WSU.
Town where you live
I am the only candidate that has both audit experience and experience working within all levels of Washington government. While the incumbent has more management experience, I have perspective working for government agencies in all 4 corners of our state. There is a large disconnect between the SAO in Olympia and how government agencies in Bellingham, Pend Oreille, Richland, etc. operate and we need someone with the local level experience to help the personnel within the office overcome that.
I am also the most experienced investigator by a mile in this race. My detective experience and law enforcement experience in general make for a vital asset in interpreting the findings of my personnel in the office and the ability to explain them to all Washington citizens in a relatable fashion.
- The after action audit of WA COVID-19 response, specifically on the Washington Department of Health, the Washington Emergency Management Division, and the Office of the Governor.
- The removal of a lobbyist from my senior staff, the restructuring of cybersecurity audits to its own unique division, and the move to place special investigations under a different branch of the office to expedite whistleblower investigations to a maximum of 180 days.
- The creation of a direct access portal for Washington voters to review biweekly audit reports explained on video, as well as research into the top issues for Washington taxpayers every year when approaching the legislature to request funding for performance auditing. This will also include a customer service survey aspect for various governments we audit to give direct feedback into my staff in order to promote better career development and performance evaluation of my staff.
- I will immediately petition FEMA for federal funding to assist with the performance audit of our state response to COVID-19. This funding would help me bypass the need to approach the state legislature for funding and expedite my personnel capability to provide these results to the Washington taxpayers much quicker.
- Restructuring my senior staff will be at my discretion. I have already tapped several tech business leaders, public relations figures, and experienced investigators to come in and assist in the transition of the state auditor's office towards a more transparent and forward facing organization with senior staff who are experts in their fields, not donors and politicians.
- My deputy auditor, a long time business leader in IT networking and public and private sector tech, will work closely with WA state IT but also with our public relations unit, TVW, and other local media to ensure we can provide biweekly updates to citizens.
Federal outreach. We are going to be in a budget crisis for at least 3 years. Reaching out to various federal level agencies such as the USDOJ, USDA, etc., to obtain federal funding to assist in audit projects will help relieve the budgetary need from the state to provide government oversight.
Cooperation with JLARC. Both parties within JLARC will need to be willing to work together to manage government oversight until tax revenues are fixed in Washington. We will likely take on a greater role for performance auditing to free up their time, but we also need to make sure our priorities dont overlap so we dont duplicate effort.
Blending planned and surprise audits. We will give notice but also explore the idea of giving shorter notice for "spot auditing" of government agencies to ensure we are seeing real, every day business practices in the agencies rather than prepared responses to planned audits.
Instead of simply firing staff, re prioritize what they are doing. For example... instead of wasting resources on wolf tracking in Eastern WA, allow private sector contractors to provide livestock security and work with the Colville Tribe to perform wolf counts. Re deploy WDFW resources to other projects more useful to the taxpayers.
Develop a comprehensive plan for the next time. My after action audit will present to the public both the good and bad aspects of the WA response. We will ensure that mistakes will be mitigated and the response will be far greater if this ever happens again.
Restructure agency followup. Instead of levying immediate fines, allow for 90 day probation period for agencies with findings. If findings can be corrected and processes are put into place that satisfactorily address the issue moving forward, hold expensive state fines in abeyance.
Experience (Max 500 characters)
Current Washington State Auditor 2017-present; Pierce County Executive 2009-2016; Pierce County Auditor 2003-2008; Tacoma School Director 1987-1999.
Current member of National Association of State Auditors; National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers.
Town where you live
As State Auditor for the past three-and-half years, and the first woman elected to this seat, it has been a privilege to lead 400+ employees across the state to provide financial audits of over 2,300 local governments and state agencies. During that time, we have also increased the number of accountability, cybersecurity and performance audits, while carrying out fraud and whistleblower investigations.
I also served as Pierce County Executive for 8 years, where I led a staff of more than 3,000 employees. My time as Executive means I understand the value of independent audits of public agencies. Audits give the public a window into their government’s financial decisions, and local governments benefit from regular, independent reviews of their operations. And leading a large local government like Pierce County prepared me for the wide variety of work done by the State Auditor’s Office.
As the current State Auditor, I have set my priorities based on a vision of “increasing trust in government.” Public audits play a key role in ensuring the guiding principles of transparency and accountability of public money are maintained and transparent to our state’s residents.
My priorities are to ensure we have an independent and objective review of public dollars, especially in light of the unprecedented financial situation created by COVID-19; to reinforce accountability in all levels of government through strong audit procedures that examine areas of increasing risk like cybersecurity; and to provide even greater transparency and public access to all the work of the Auditor’s Office, because it is critical for open government and our democracy.
We have managed to conduct financial audits of over 2,300 local governments and state agencies. We completed that work while also increasing the number of accountability, cybersecurity and performance audits. We have also carried out whistleblower and fraud investigations. We investigated the largest fraud case in Washington history.
Even before COVID-19, I directed my staff to find new ways to audit programs that send huge amounts of federal dollars into our state. We created a task force to pull together auditors who focus on multiple aspects of Medicaid with the goal of taking a holistic look at the program to ensure it is as efficient as possible. This effort mirrors those occurring in several other state’s public audit offices.
We will continue to improve our new user-friendly, interactive website, which offers to our citizens unprecedented access to every audit report we issue and data tools that serve up important information about the local governments that serve them.
The best “tools” we have are the dedicated staff members serving the people of this state. Training, communication and technology improvements are the best ways to improve their ability to conduct the audits of state agencies and local governments. In addition, we continue to strive to be up-to-date on the latest innovations in auditing and computer forensics techniques. The knowledge of our staff and their technical expertise will be important as we move forward in conducting some of the largest reviews for fraud in state history.
In addition, I have led a strong team on the non-audit side of our operations who provide tools for local governments and state agencies to increase effectiveness and efficiencies in their operations. Local governments grappling with difficult economic choices have access to non-audit resources within the State Auditor’s Office, including our online Financial Intelligence Tool, which will soon allow governments to do longer-term financial forecasting.
While this issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Legislature, the State Auditor’s Office is uniquely positioned to provide information to help policymakers and local government leaders over the next months and years as they tackle this problem.
Regarding fraudulent unemployment claims at the state level, my office will be investigating the underlying causes that allowed criminals to steal hundreds of millions of dollars. We hope to provide actionable items for the governor’s office and the legislature to follow once we have a clear understanding of how our state was vulnerable to the deception used to illegally obtain benefits.
As we grapple with how to account for the large influx of federal funds due to COVID-19, we have convened discussions with federal regulators and state agencies to ensure all Washington governments understand what they can spend the money on, so our auditors can then review the use of those funds and provide an independent accounting.