Wallace purged sanitation district documents
December 15, 2014
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
To audit or not to audit? That is the question at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District (SSLOCSD).
An audit may find accounting inaccuracies and/or other wrongdoing.
At this point, with so many questions left unanswered since the Feb. 2013 resignation of District Administrator — of 27 years — John Wallace, it would be prudent to examine what really happened to the district’s reserves. Millions of dollars in reserves were gradually depleted over the course of ten years; among the expenses was nearly $276,000 for engineering costs associated with the 2010 spill.
These monies were paid to Wallace’s engineering firm to prepare the administrative record for the water board hearing in Sept. 2012, in an effort to defend the district from punitive damages and damage to Wallace’s own reputation.
Once gone from SSLOCSD, it took four full months for Wallace to relinquish district files he had stored at his engineering office in San Luis Obispo. These files were the property of the district and should have been kept on site in the SSLOCSD district offices at the wastewater treatment plant in Oceano.
An audit may include delving into the very boxes Wallace himself charged $98.00 an hour to “review.” But that was after his staff of engineers and administrative assistants billed $42 to $108 per hour over four months to catalogue, label and box.
Invoices totaling over $15,000 describe tasks associated with returning the districts records to new management as “transition.” The invoices detail tasks such as; filing, document preparation, organize, reorganize, accumulate, label, purge and gutting binders.
An audit at this point will likely find that there are gaping holes in the district’s record. But, no one but Wallace really knows what was in those files before they left the SSLOCSD offices. There is no way for current staff to know if all pertinent and important material was returned.
The fact that district records may have been intentionally “purged” or “gutted” in any way gives rise to the argument in favor of a forensic audit. That the district actually paid Wallace/Wallace Group to do it is outrageous.
The new board members, Jim Hill and John Shoals need to take a fresh look at what’s gone on at SSLOCSD, identify it, take action accordingly and put measures in place so that it never happens again.