Audit reveals thousands of dollars missing from the city of Wapato
WAPATO, Wash.- Over the course of a three-year period from January 2015 to December 2017, the Washington state auditor said thousands of dollars have gone missing in Wapato.
The report was released earlier this week and says the city didn't have proper oversight of the jail, cemetery, use of credit cards by officials and the overall budget.
“If you turn around and look at the budget that they had set for 2018, they actually had a budget of $700,000 to come in even though there was an over $400,000 shortfall from the year before,” Treasurer Robin Cordova said.
The current mayor Juan Orozco was sworn in during December of last year and said he started trying to solve the problem from within.
He got rid of the police chief, the public works director's contract wasn't renewed and the city clerk is on paid leave because of an investigation.
“People were kind of shocked like 'what are you going?' well what we're doing is stopping any further internal corruption,” Orozco said.
The audit said the city has not devoted sufficient time and resources to establish proper controls over handling of money or inmate housing contracts.
Dave Simmons was the Wapato police chief starting October of 2016 and was let go in December of 2017.
He said problems between city officials and the police department led to the issues mentioned in the report.
“We made great success in trying to correct a lot of them by the time I left. Now I had not completed and wasn't able to finish everything when I left, but we had made great strides in correcting each thing listed in the audit,” Simmons said.
To make up for some of the missing money Orozco said he combined the duties of a fire chief and police chief into a public safety director.
He said that move along with the restructuring of other positions will save the city a lot of money.
“We'll be operating at a saving of about $470,000 a year. Savings in our administration. That's in salary alone,” Orozco said.
Orozco goes as far as saying there was theft and embezzlement. Claiming the auditor is doing a criminal investigation of the former mayor.
However, we have not confirmed whether that is true.
While there's no set amount of how much money is missing, the state auditor is currently investigating to figure out where all that money went.