WEEKEND REWIND: Clallam County report: no unauthorized payments from veterans’ fund

WEEKEND REWIND: Clallam County report: no unauthorized payments from veterans' fund

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County’s human resources director and risk manager has concluded that no unauthorized or excessive payments were made from the county’s Veterans’ Relief Fund to a Peninsula Daily News reporter, as County Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis alleged last month.

Rich Sill, county human resources director and risk manager, said Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols never had evidence that such payments were made this year, as Barkhuis alleged Nov. 23.

A husband and a wife, both veterans who qualified separately for veterans’ relief funds, received proper payments that were recorded under a single account for “convenience reasons,” Sill said in a memo to County Administrator Jim Jones that was dated Wednesday and released to the PDN late Thursday.

“This appears to be the basis of Ms. Barkhuis’ complaint,” Sill said.

No unauthorized, excessive payments

“With respect to this account, no unauthorized or excessive payments were found to have been made from the county Veterans’ Relief Fund during 2015,” Sill said.

In a Nov. 23 email to county commissioners and other officials, Barkhuis said Nichols had evidence that “unauthorized and excessive” relief fund payments were made for the benefit of an unnamed PDN reporter, who subsequently covered the District 1 commissioners’ race and $1.3 million Opportunity Fund loan controversy that lingered throughout the summer.

“I should not have to explain to you the implications of this evidence,” Barkhuis wrote.

Barkhuis on Friday declined to comment on Sill’s response to her claim.

Barkhuis: Preparing report

“I am in the process of preparing a report outlining my concerns regarding the financial integrity of the county, and will be presenting that report to the Board of County Commissioners in early 2016,” Barkhuis said in an email.

“That report will include my concerns regarding the county’s management of the Veterans’ Relief Fund, including the basis for those concerns, which basis was neither addressed nor ameliorated by the county’s Dec. 9, 2015 memo.”

Barkhuis had asked for the state attorney general’s involvement in “resolving these implications.”

She had said there was “no reason to believe” that Sheriff Bill Benedict or Nichols would “act, or act objectively,” to resolve the implications without intervention by the attorney general.

Barkhuis last June rejected warrants for $1.3 million in infrastructure grants to the Port of Port Angeles and city of Port Angeles on procedural grounds, citing a lack of a public hearing or signed contracts with port and city governments.

In September, Barkhuis announced she would not reject the warrants because was going on medical leave for an undisclosed condition.

Barkhuis, a licensed attorney, was elected in 2010 and ran unopposed in 2014.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at [email protected]

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