By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Commissioners Mike Chapman and Jim McEntire instead concurred with the state Attorney General’s Office, which declined to file charges against Roark Miller, and Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney William Payne, who said the board had “no more role” in an investigation of an elected official, Chapman said.
“It’s up to the public at this point to determine what needs to happen,” Chapman said.
Said McEntire: “I think the matter is concluded.”
The report by investigator and former FBI Agent Ken Bauman on the nation’s only elected community development director was prompted by a single whistleblower allegation by a Department of Community Development, or DCD, employee Feb. 21, 2013.
It grew into an exploration of employee morale and the agency’s dealings with the public, according to Assistant State Attorney General Scott Marlow.
County commissioners agreed April 15 to release the June 2013 report, which Peninsula Daily News requested in August under a state Public Records Act request.
The report was made public last week and can be seen online at www.tinyurl.com/kcrrruj.
The heavily redacted report, in which names and information on public documents were redacted by Payne’s office, contains interviews with Roark Miller and more than a dozen other DCD employees. It contains no summary or formal recommendation.
“I don’t want to make it overly dramatic, but in the aggregate there were a lot of things going on, and it’s hard to tell if they still are or not,” Doherty said.
The county has been billed $82,445 in costs related to the complaint — $68,469 for the report and $13,976 in legal fees for Roark Miller’s legal counsel, county Administrator Jim Jones has said.
Roark Miller said that money would have been better spent on an extra patrol deputy than an investigation that “could have been solved in a few questions asked of me early on.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this being a non-issue for quite a while, so I’m glad they voted to move on,” Roark Miller said after the 2-1 commissioners’ vote.
Although the staff interviews in the report were not sworn testimony, Doherty said the transcripts demonstrate “serious problems.”
“If you read the material, you’ll see documentary evidence that includes things like backdating documents, tampering with documents, destruction of documents,” he said.
“There’s just a number of categories in the procedure part of county government that I would hope we have some interest in some oversight.”
Doherty said the board had an “obligation” to delve into the allegations.
Roark Miller defeated John Miller, no relation, in the 2010 election. She has announced her intention to run this year for a second four-year term.
Doherty, who is also up for re-election, cited “irregularities” in how DCD customers were treated.
“For instance, the backdating of documents, some of the handling of financial documents — and how they were taken care of, how that public money transaction was taken care of — are serious enough that the board I think should look into that and then, only secondly, decide what we might want to do about it,” Doherty said.
Doherty said his third over-arching concern was the alleged treatment of county employees.
“Again, it isn’t sworn testimony, but people talk about morale problems and some issues about the way certain people were handled,” he said.
For her part, Roark Miller said she has made an effort to keep staff more informed about the reasons for her decisions, which are made “in the best interest of the citizens.”
“I’ve got a great staff working hard, producing great work,” she added. “They’re sharp, they’re working with the public, they’re experienced.”
A 24-year employee of the office, Roark Miller said it was “unfortunate” that some staffers campaigned for her predecessor in 2010.
“And because they became involved in a campaign, it made them leery under my leadership,” she said.
Roark Miller said she doesn’t expect the investigation to come up again until the election.
As Bauman interviewed department employees on the whistleblower complaint, his investigation grew into a larger review, including if she ordered the backdating of a building permit so it complied with new Dungeness-area water-use rules that went into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
It was alleged that she had an employee on Jan. 4, 2013, backdate the building permit to Dec. 27, 2012, for a Sequim-area mushroom-growing operation so the applicant would not be subject to the new water-use rules.
A check for the permit also was backdated, according to Bauman’s report.
Several of the potential criminal charges suggested in Bauman’s report were related to the backdating issue.
Roark Miller said she was justified in doing what she did, asserting the permit was requested enough in advance that it should have been issued before the first of the year.
The state Attorney General’s Office determined that the permit was backdated “to correct an error made by the office that could have resulted in liability on behalf of the county” and was not done with criminal malice or intent.
Doherty maintained that the allegations in the report are a “serious enough matter that the board should read the report, and then at some subsequent date talk about it.”
Said Chapman: “I don’t think there’s a need to come back.”
“If you want to bring it back, we can keep bringing it back, but I’m not going to change my opinion,” said Chapman, who made the motion to concur with the advice and decisions rendered by the state Attorney General’s Office, county prosecutor’s office and state Auditor’s Office.
The state auditor decided that it would not conduct its own investigation but would review the allegations during the normal course of its 2014 audit.
“Anything beyond this discussion today is a political matter,” McEntire said.
“I think, by my lights, we’re done,”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.