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Deputy assessor-treasurer files complaint against employee

Post by David Wickert on Jan. 15, 2010 at 10:00 am |
January 15, 2010 12:15 pm

Update: Ugas attempted to withdraw his whistleblower complaint. Read more here.

Upate2: Washam tried to lay off Barnes. Read more here.

Pierce County’s deputy assessor-treasurer has filed a whistleblower complaint against an employee, claiming she broke state law in connection with property inspections the office failed to conduct in recent years.

Among other things, Deputy Assessor-Treasurer Alberto Ugas claims employee Sally Barnes directed false inspection information to be entered in assessment records and perjured herself in court statements about the inspections issue.

Barnes did not respond to requests for comment. Last year an investigator found that Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam – Ugas’ boss – had retaliated against Barnes for complaints she had made against him. The investigator said Washam’s behavior also may have been motivated by the fact that he blames Barnes for the lack of property inspections.

Washam said he had nothing to do with Ugas’ whistleblower complaint, filed Nov. 30. (You can download a copy of the complaint here)

The human resources department has hired a contract investigator to investigate Ugas’ complaint.

“The only ingredient necessary for society to decline and decay is for good people to do nothing in the face of wrongdoing,” Ugas said when asked about the complaint. “Those who tolerate or merely ignore deceit and dishonest behavior are enablers,” he said. “Our children deserve better from us. Our nation demands more from its citizens.”

Mary Ann Brennan, public sector coordinator for Teamsters Local Union 117, which represents assessor-treasurer employees, had a different take. She said Ugas’ complaint is “another venue” for Washam to raise issues that others have declined to investigate.

Since last March Washam has been trying to get state and local officials to investigate several claims.

Washam claims – and documents and office employees back him up – that the office failed to conduct property inspections required by state law under former Assessor-Treasurer Ken Madsen.

Washam also claims that employees falsified inspection records and submitted false state and county reports to cover up the skipped inspections.

The assessor has asked the state Department of Revenue, state Auditor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and Gov. Chris Gregoire to investigate. He’s asked the local prosecuting attorney’s office to do the same.

All have declined. Most recently, Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist noted that Washam failed to meet the burden of proof when he raised the claims in a civil matter in 2005. Lindquist said the burden for a criminal matter is even higher.

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