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WA State Auditor Releases Results Of Review Of Spokane City Housing Agency

Screenshot from City Cable 5

The Washington state auditor’s office says a Spokane city agency failed to comply with its own rules when it made financial agreements with outside contractors in 2017 and 2019.

That was one finding in a report released Monday by the auditor’s office.Mayor Nadine Woodward says the city asked the agency to review the actions by the city’s Community Housing and Human Services Department. She says employees in that department reported concerns to her shortly after she took office.

“The auditor’s office made four findings that are both troubling and encouraging. The nature and appearance of those findings causes us some concern and shows us that we must do better. However, how those circumstances came to light are also encouraging because the process worked," Woodward said.
Among the findings, the city’s community housing agency could not prove that it followed proper procedures in awarding shelter-related contracts to Jewels Helping Hands and Catholic Charities in November 2019. The contract to Jewels was for $740,000. The Catholic Charities agreement was for about $495,000.
Other findings touched on questionable reimbursements to the Center for Justice in 2017, which had received 15-thousand dollars from the city to perform some services. The auditor’s office also noted concerns from city staff that former City Council President Ben Stuckart had pressured them to bypass city practices and internal controls and approve projects and contracts.
The mayor said in a conference call with reporters that all of the issues raised in the auditor’s findings involved city staff who left the city before 2020.

Both Ben Stuckart and Catholic Charities denied the allegations in the report, saying it had several inaccuracies.  

“I think the SAO by not interviewing me, by not interviewing others that are implicated in this report, did themselves a real disservice and didn’t do their homework," Stuckart said.

Stuckart said he did not pressure former department leaders, or take campaign contributions from the contractors the city hired. He said the department leader at the time, Kelly Keenan, was not interviewed for the report.

Catholic Charities also addressed an alleged conflict of interest, saying former  Keenan, who left the city in 2019 and later was hired by Catholic Charities, was not involved in any negotiations or their contract with the city. 

Reporter's Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Ben Stuckart and Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington.