Investigators: Governor backs state ferry system leadership

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @SFrameK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 22, 2010 at 10:41 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 22 at 11:30 PM

For the first time since KING 5 began their investigation of the state ferry system, Governor Chris Gregoire sat down with Reporter Susannah Frame Tuesday to talk about the findings in her series entitled "Waste on the Water."

The series has exposed millions of taxpayer dollars wasted at Washington State Ferries over many years. "Waste on the Water" has received a huge response. Hundreds of viewers have e-mailed, called and posted comments online, demanding reforms. The feedback has also included viewers who say they want to hear from the governor about the findings. The purpose of today’s interview was to give Governor Gregoire that chance.

But something very different happened when Frame sat down with Governor Gregoire. The reporter was surprised when the governor started the interview off by saying she’d been briefed on the contentsof the stories, but that she doesn't have time to watch television and that she had not seen the any of the reports.

"I have not seen them, “ said Gregoire.  

The Investigation

The KING 5 Investigators found taxpayer money going down the drain - money not guaranteed in union contracts - but costs managers could have contained.

*Millions spent on engineers who see their salaries explode with self-assigned overtime year after year.

*A multi-million-dollar expense of paying a group of employees to drive to and from the exact same office for years on end.

*Millions more spent in housing and travel time pay for the engineers who work in the San Juan Islands.

The Interview

Again, the governor said she was briefed on the stories, but she didn't acknowledge even one of the issues that were exposed in the broadcasts.

"If you have evidence of inefficiencies or ineffectiveness, I want to know about it and I want Secretary Hammond to be given the chance to get in there and get the job done,” said Gregoire.

"The evidence is in the stories. I'm sorry you didn't have time to watch them,” said Frame.

The governor seemed to dismiss the findings by KING 5 because most of what was reported didn't involve breaking the law.

"You asked about illegality. I don't think for the viewers or the taxpayers that's the threshold. We're talking about waste. We're talking about unnecessary overtime. We're talking about paying people to drive to the same exact office year after year after year to go to work,” said Frame.

"Susannah, let me repeat, David Moseley and Paula Hammond in the last 2 years have saved the taxpayers $33 million,” said Gregoire.

The governor spoke highly of the leaders she appointed - Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond and Director of Ferries David Moseley.

In the last 2 years they've cut out several million dollars in the ferry system in administrative and consultant costs.

"I consider myself lucky to have David Moseley and Paula Hammond to head up the ferry system and the Department of Transportation with one of the best safety records in America, the largest ferry system in America. Can we do better? Yes. Must we do better? Yes,” said Gregoire. 

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