State to get involved in allegations against Clallam community development director

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

What the elected DCD director does

Sheila Roark Miller, the elected director of Clallam County’s Department of Community Development, has a broad array of responsibilities, including a 2013 general operating budget of $2.2 million, the fourth-largest department spending plan in county government.

The agency’s 24 employees are responsible for comprehensive land-use planning, the office of the county fire marshal and for processing land-development and building permits.

According to the county Home Rule Charter, the DCD director “shall administer, enforce and advise the county commissioners on all laws, except health, with respect to the environment, natural resources, and land and shoreline development, including, but not limited to, zoning, land divisions, environmental policy, building and fire codes, forest management, mining, agriculture, watershed planning, and floodplains.”

In addition, according to the county website at www.clallam.net, the director also shall “[be] accountable for the efficient and effective performance of the administrative operation of the department, administer department and county administrative policies and procedures, prepare and monitor department annual budget, financial management of 22 grants, process accounts receivable/payable, coordinate and prepare agenda items to [the county commissioners], assist with personnel matters, public records management and general staff support.”

Roark Miller’s salary is $71,628.

She was a DCD code-compliance officer and deputy fire marshal with 21 years of employment in the department when she defeated then-elected DCD Director John Miller in 2010, winning by 53 percent (15,330 votes) to Miller’s 44 percent (13,347 votes).

Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — An investigative report on allegations that Clallam County Department of Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller illegally altered, destroyed or backdated public records will be reviewed later this year by the state Auditor’s Office as part of the agency’s annual accountability audit of the county.

“They are very serious allegations,” agency spokesman Matt Miller said Friday.

“That’s why it’s important that the proper steps are followed to get to the bottom of it.”

The accountability audit determines whether the county followed its own and state regulations, said Miller, who is no relation to Roark Miller.

It could result in one of four outcomes issued by the Auditor’s Office, the most serious of which is a finding.

Miller said the finding could be referred to the state Attorney General’s Office or the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for possible charges against Roark Miller.

The other outcomes, in order of least to most serious, would be no action, followed by an exit item that Miller said is “usually a minor issue” and issuance of a management letter that outlines corrections that need to be made and which are reviewed in the next audit, Miller said.

“As a reporting agency, we don’t play an enforcement role,” Miller said.

“What we will do is review the work done by the investigation, make sure it all looks in order and nothing is out of sorts, and possibly follow up on it in our own accountability audit.”

The report was prompted by a DCD employee who made an overtime-related whistle-blower complaint Feb. 21 that alleged Roark Miller “seems to be utilizing her power to gain special privileges.”

In a previous interview, Roark Miller, the only elected DCD director in the country, said she committed no wrongdoing.

She sent the following email to Peninsula Daily News early Saturday morning:

“As an accredited building code official with 23 years under my belt, the codes require that I issue building permits in a reasonable amount of time, and I can assure our citizens that I use sound judgment when making such decisions.

“The whistle-blower complaint, now gone public, has uncovered some embarrassing errors made by some of my employees.

“I alone am responsible for staff actions or inaction, and in correcting these, wholeheartedly believe my decisions are both right and legal.

“I ask for the public’s continued support, and for their patience, out of respect for all of my dedicated and hard working staff.”

A cover letter to the report — the report itself has not been released — that was written by county Human Resources Department attorney Akin Blitz of Portland, Ore., was released Wednesday that summarized the results of an investigation by Blitz’s special investigator, Ken Bauman.

Once the report is issued, the public “will be happy with us,” Roark Miller had predicted in an earlier interview.

“I believe she is innocent today until proven guilty,” county commissioners Chairman Mike Chapman said Friday.

Blitz has said Roark Miller was interviewed for Bauman’s investigation and that no other DCD employees were implicated.

She has been advised by the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to hire an attorney.

Bauman concluded that public records related to at least two DCD-issued permits were falsified, including a building permit allegedly backdated on Roark Miller’s orders so it complied with the new Dungeness watershed water rules that went into effect Jan. 1.

Bauman “was careful not to make an ultimate decision, which he states is reserved for the proper prosecutorial authority,” but identified seven charges the state Attorney General’s Office could consider against Roark Miller, Blitz said in the cover letter.

Four of those charges are felonies: injury to a public record, injury to and misappropriation of a record, offering a false instrument for filing or record and misappropriation and falsification of accounts by a public officer.

Three potential charges are gross misdemeanors: official misconduct, false report and public officer making false certificates.

The report was referred to state Assistant Attorney General Scott Marlow, who will not be in his office until Thursday.

“The investigative report stems from initial allegations that required an investigative review of Clallam County Department of Community Development management and employee morale,” Blitz said in the letter.

“Sheila Roark Miller’s actions on Oct. 10, 2012 and again on Jan. 8, 2013 directly or indirectly resulted in the alteration, destruction or falsification by backdating Clallam County DCD documents and reduction of permit fees due from the applicant under circumstances that may have warranted a waiver of the 2013 fee increases but do not appear to constitute a justification or defense for falsification of public records,” Blitz said in the letter.

“The facts revealed in this investigation pertaining to Ms. Roark Miller’s management of Clallam County DCD need to be addressed by county Administrator Jim Jones and/or the board of commissioners at such time as the investigative report and evidence may be disclosed outside the criminal justice system without prejudice to any potential prosecution,” Blitz said in the letter.

A copy of the cover letter also was sent to state Auditor’s Office Special Investigator Zachary Wilson.

Chapman took issue with Blitz’s assertion that the commissioners or Jones need to address the results of the investigation.

“This is an independent elected official hired by the voters of Clallam County,” Chapman said.

“She answers only to the voters.

“She does not answer to the Board of Commissioners other than in the budgetary process.”

The DCD has a 2013 general operating budget of $2.2 million, the fourth-largest budget in county government.

The agency’s 24 employees are responsible for comprehensive land-use planning, the office of the county fire marshal and for processing land-development and building permits.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 22. 2013 6:22PM
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