House Committee Tackling Corruption, Fraud, Self-Dealing in “Special Purpose” Local Governments

WHO: House Local Government Committee, State Auditor, others

WHAT: Work session on reforming special purpose district governance

WHEN: Friday, January 17 at 10:00 am

WHERE: House Hearing Room D, O’Brien Building, Capitol Campus

WHY: In response to the high-profile news media investigative reports and State Auditor reports, the House Local Government Committee will hold a work session to shine a light on the abuses, fraud, lack of accountability, and lack of fundamental elements of democracy uncovered in some special-purpose districts.

The legislature is considering a bill sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, to bring openness, transparency, and financial accountability to “special-purpose districts” across Washington. HB 2588 seeks to bring sunshine, accountability and the basics of democracy to these districts – many of which are a century or more old and do not even allow for registered voters to vote on special-purpose district representatives.

In introducing the legislation, Rep. Pollet is guided by the belief that no government entity which collects funds from taxpayers should be allowed to operate in the dark year after year without the taxpaying public – or the county which collects the assessments on behalf of the district – being able to know:

  • What the money is being spent on
  • What the annual budget of the district is
  • When elected commissioners meet and what their agendas are
  • Whether the district has filed annual financial statements and is even been found unauditable by the State Auditor
  • Whether the district is even performing the functions for which it collects and receives tax dollars directly assessed on taxpayers
  • How to run for office, who is eligible to run, where the election is held and who is eligible to vote HB 2588 addresses each of these issues

The legislature is also considering HB 2415 by Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila. The bill will make special purpose districts more democratic, equitable, and fair by:

  • Removing requirements for land ownership in order to vote
  • Requiring residency in the district to vote
  • Disallowing corporate voting
  • Removing weighted/more votes voting for larger landowners
  • Removing provisions treating married spouses as one vote

Background information on special purpose districts in Washington state can be found here.