This page is intended to correct some of the misinformation and errors published by unreliable sources. Sunshine is a great disinfectant. Let the light shine as we embrace forthright truth-telling.
Misinformation source: The Columbian, June 26, 2015
Title: Part I: Fact-checking David Madore’s Columbian ad
Error conveyed: Clark County does not lead the state in job growth rate. Kittitas County does.
To correct the error, here are the actual graphs as published by the Washington Department of Employment Security. That is the latest data available as of July 6, 2015.
Which graph shows a clear upward job growth trend with the least volatility?
The truth: Clark County became the most business friendly community on the West Coast in June 2013 when we streamlined our permit processes and adopted the Fee Waiver Program. Our neighbors are getting back to work and business is booming in Clark County.
The graphs published by the Washington Department of Employment Security and Regional Economist Scott Bailey show that Clark County gained 10,000 new full time jobs since the Fee Waiver program was adopted. That’s about 10 times that of Kittitas County. Bailey’s reports can be found here. To learn more about the program and our dramatic economic turnaround, see my Jobs page.
Misinformation source: Elected County Auditor Greg Kimsey, November 24, 2014
Title: Fee Waiver “Audit”
Error conveyed: The Fee Waiver program is a failure and is unsustainable.
To correct the error, the story is told here:
Any time government waives fees or lowers taxes, opposition will always come from big-government proponents. Rational people ought to let the experiment play out, and in time, allow the results to be self-evident and reveal success or failure. But often the belief in a particular dogma is so strong, that it denies reality. No amount of evidence, however obvious or compelling, will be able to overcome such incorrigible belief.
Such is the case with our County Auditor, Greg Kimsey, who, before the program was adopted, vehemently testified publicly that the program would absolutely fail. It would fail to generate jobs and it would be financially unsustainable. The testimony went so far as to say that even if Clark County turned around from being one of the worst economies in the state compared to other counties, then it would have done so anyway and would be due to other perhaps unknown causes. That turnaround would have nothing to do with this program. It would just be spontaneous.
Our unprecedented Fee Waiver Program has been in place for more than two years now and the results are self-evident. Yet, Kimsey, tasked his staff to prove that the Fee Waiver program is a failure and unsustainable. He published his “Fee Waiver Audit” as proof of failure. He did not allow the County Commissioners’ response to be published alongside his “audit”.
As county commissioners, we published Kimsey’s condemnation “audit” with his Power Point presentation alongside the Commissioners’ response in the November 25, 2014 entry of The Grid, since open transparent government is our priority.
Kimsey went so far as to submit his “audit” to the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) who accepted it as fact. They awarded him their top honor, The Knighton Award, not knowing that there was another side to the story.
The surprise news of the award prompted some inquiry on our part. We learned that their rules require participants to disclose dissenting opinions to the submitted document, which of course would include the Commissioners’ published response. Failing to do so would disqualify the applicant. Kimsey had not done so.
The irony is that the commissioners’ response is missing from the Transparency Page (of all places). Clicking on the Performance Audit link excludes the Commissioners’ response next to his document that would have otherwise fairly presented both sides.
The awarding organization sidestepped the embarrassing situation of Kimsey’s nondisclosure by doing two things. They concluded that even though their rules require the applicant to be forthright and to reveal any response that refuted the submitted document, the rules technically only apply to responses from “management”.
They interpreted “management” as county staff. So they chose to get around the rule by defining County Commissioners as “non-management” even though we created the Fee Waiver program and Kimsey’s document targeted us (not staff). That was one way out of the pickle.
But there was still another problem. We emailed ALGA a copy of the published Commissioners’ response. The content of the two documents conflicted and their award had accepted one side before they were aware of the other. But rather than considering both sides, they solved the problem by stating that they do not check the truthfulness or credibility of the submitted document. They just vote to give the award for reasons not disclosed. So Kimsey could keep his award.
Clark County Commissioners approved the appointment of Forensic Accountant Tiffany Couch, founder of Acuity Forensics, to the Auditor Oversight Committee after Kimsey nominated her before he presented his Fee Waiver “audit”. Mrs. Couch is beyond reproach, is unwilling to compromise on any ethical issue, and of course, disagrees with Kimsey’s Fee Waiver “audit”. Couch deserves our highest respect.
Elected County Auditors, above all other trusted offices, ought to welcome scrutiny, be objective, forthright, transparent, and always embrace the whole truth unconditionally. Politics should have no place in audits as we witnessed with these shenanigans. What matters, is that our neighbors are back to work, our local economy is booming, and Clark County is thriving.
Like my grandpa used to say, “It will all come out in the wash.” Eventually, the truth will come out and it is always our friend.
To learn more about the program and our dramatic economic turnaround, see my Jobs page.
As soon I posted the above story, Tiffany Couch published a scathing letter condemning both Kimsey and me. The Columbian said they were going to publish a story about it and asked me to send them relevant content to be included. I sent them the following response and asked that if they used any of it, in addition to whatever they wrote, that they would also make this unedited letter available so their readers could read it for themselves. They chose instead to betray that trust. Here is what I sent them:
On November 12, 2014, Tiffany Couch, founder of Acuity Forensics, accepted the appointment to the Audit Oversight Committee (the AOC), a public agency subject to the Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act. Members of the AOC have the following responsibilities as defined in ccc 2.14.070(3)
(b) Review and analyze all audit reports.
(c) Ensure that management has initiated appropriate action to resolve exceptions or weaknesses noted in audit reports.
(d) Apprise the board of county commissioners of activities and result of audits.
Section (1) specifies the purpose of that committee as follows:
“The audit oversight committee’s function is to assist the county auditor and the board of county commissioners in fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities, and to facilitate a direct line of communication between auditor and the board. The objective of the committee is to promote the effectiveness and integrity of audit processes.”
The three member AOC was made up of County Auditor Greg Kimsey, County Commissioner Chair Tom Mielke, and Tiffany Couch. Couch’s first task as a new AOC member was to consider Report #14-02, Greg Kimsey’s document titled “Audit of Clark County’s Job Creation – Fee Waiver Program”.
At the November 25 meeting, the Auditor’s staff presented the report to the County Commissioners with all three AOC members present.
Although Kimsey was given the written Commissioner Response ahead of the meeting and was asked that the Response be presented onscreen along with the Auditor’s report, he announced during the meeting that the Commissioners did not have a response. Before the meeting ended, Madore reminded the staff that there was, in fact, a Commissioner Response. But Kimsey concluded the meeting and left the room before that Response could be presented.
Couch participated but did not provide any feedback to the Commissioners following the meeting. County Commissioner David Madore called Couch at a subsequent date for her feedback. She indicated that she did not support the Auditor’s document, but would not make any public statements regarding that report. Citizens naturally presumed that the Auditors report was credible and authoritative due to Couch’s respected position as a well-known Forensic Accountant.
County Commissioners published Kimsey’s document along with his Power Point Presentation and the Commissioner Response on the November 25 entry of The Grid along with an audio recording of the meeting. Kimsey published his document on a webpage controlled by his office but refused to allow the Commissioner Response to be included. The report was quoted publicly as proof that the County Fee Waiver program was a failure, unsustainable, and should be discontinued.
The Fee Waiver program has been in play now for more than two years and the evidence continues to reaffirm the success first documented by the Commissioner Response. In July 2015, the Columbian ran a story that cited Kimsey’s document as proof that the fee Waiver program was a failure.
To refute the claim, Madore published the history on a Fact Checks webpage. The following quote included the reference to Couch:
“Clark County Commissioners approved the appointment of Forensic Accountant Tiffany Couch, founder of Acuity Forensics, to the Auditor Oversight Committee after Kimsey nominated her before he presented his Fee Waiver “audit”. Mrs. Couch is beyond reproach, is unwilling to compromise on any ethical issue, and of course, disagrees with Kimsey’s Fee Waiver “audit”. Couch deserves our highest respect.”
Couch then published a public letter discrediting Kimsey, confirmed her non-support of his document, and verified the truth of the story told in the Fact Checks page. That letter also objected to anyone referencing her name and faulted Madore for using her name in the above quote. However, the AOC is a public agency and the activities of that public agency are a matter of public record. It is appropriate to reference her role as a member of that public body. Couch announced her resignation from the AOC. We are thankful for service and wish her the best.
— end of response —
Tiffany Couch’s letter is posted here TiffanyCouchPublicLetter. I am guilty of being too sweet (overly saccharine). Any letter from a member of a public body (including the AOC) to multiple elected officials is by nature a public record. It does not get more public than that. I have also reached out to her as a respected friend.
Stay tuned for other corrections on other topics.