In our continuing series of stories, the KING 5 Investigators have uncovered serious problems within the country's largest ferry system - the Washington State Ferries.
By requesting public records, developing sources, and digging through documents they have exposed "Waste on the Water".
Warnings by state employees ignored millions of taxpayer dollars in questionable spending and virtually no internal review or accountability.
There stories were a catalyst for significant change. Just ten days after the story involving special projects aired, the expensive perk for some ferry workers was halted.
The head of the state ferry system vowed to make changes and address the deep-rooted practices that have been commonly accepted throughout the fleet for years. And Governor Christine Gregoire has called for an audit of the ferries including an expert panel to conduct a management review of the entire system.
The series “Waste on the Water” had significant impact. Just ten days after a story on special projects and travel time aired, the state announced they were ending the 30-year old practice. One ferry manager resigned his position, another was forced to quit. The ferry director decided to give up the lease on some of the housing offered to workers. An 11-page overtime policy was implemented – the first of its kind in 50 years. And there’s more. State leaders including the governor responded with promises of reform including hiring a deputy director who will hold managers more accountable; a new quarterly “red flag report” that will show who’s making questionable overtime and why; assembling an expert panel that reviewed operations and made recommendations, and ordering a agency-wide audit by the State Auditor’s Office . The Transportation Commission voted to freeze fare increases until the reviews of the system were complete. The governor announced that the state and ferry unions struck deals to cut out some of the lucrative perks ferry workers have had for decades. The agreements were historic in nature and said to result in the state saving $10 million a year.
UPDATE: Since the original Waste on the Water series, new issues involving staffing arose in the summer of 2012. KING found dozens of sailings delayed or cancelled because of employee no-shows. The ferry system was forced to look into a possible work slow down by union employees. Soon after, the Coast Guard issued a new mandate that would require WA State Ferries to increase the number of staff on some of the boats. The state says that new requirement will be financially devastating and would erase any savings brought about by the cost-cutting measures implemented because of KING's investigative series.
October 31, 2012 Governor: Ferry system cannot afford Coast Guard mandate
October 30, 2012 Coast Guard mandate will erase ferry system savings from cuts
October 24, 2012 New ferry cancellations prompt response from governor
October 16, 2012 Ferry system looks into possible work slow down
March 16, 2011 Ferry system saves millions in labor costs
February 9, 2011 Another perk for ferry engineers cost taxpayer millions
January 6, 2011 Ferry communities balking at Gregoire's new proposal
December 22, 2010 KING 5 Investigators win Pulitzer Prize equivalent
November 15, 2010: State's new ferry small, but most expensive ever
November 15, 2010: Commissioner: KING 5 investigation factored into ferry fare hike
November 16, 2010: Ferry system unveils action plan
September 9, 2010: Panel suggests 36 ways to improve Wash. ferries
July 16, 2010: Investigators: Ferry employee forced to retire
June 22, 2010: Investigators: Governor backs state ferry system leadership
Mar. 08, 2010: Investigators: Ferry workers boost pay by driving to work
Real investigations. Real results.