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State fraud report calls troubled King County drainage district 'unauditable'

The Washington State Auditor's Office issued a fraud report on King County Drainage District 5 after a series of reports by the KING 5 investigators.

The office of Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthy has completed a fraud investigation of King County Drainage District 5. 

The report found the district was "unauditable" because of their lack of response to the state's information requests. 

The KING 5 investigators revealed that longtime commissioner of King County Drainage District 5 — Allan “Ben” Thomas of Enumclaw — last faced the voters in 1988. Thomas himself noted that an old state law allows him to hold the office without an election if no one else files to run.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn sent a letter to the FBI five days after the KING 5 investigators revealed documents showing that Thomas allegedly diverted $400,000 in tax money he collected over five years to a personal bank account.

The state's forensic audit revealed that only 4 percent of taxes collected in Drainage District 5 were used legitimately, and $413,000 were misappropriated.

In response to the KING 5 report, the King County Council removed commissioners from three drainage districtsincluding Thomas in District 5. 

Dunn said the county “declared positions vacant” in King County drainage districts 5, 6 and 13 – all part of a century-old drainage system that funnels water in rural Enumclaw down to the Green River basin.  

State Auditor Pat McCarthy said, “It’s up to all of us, from elected leaders to members of the public, to ask questions and demand transparency when governments close themselves to accountability.” 

The state said there are also public concerns regarding the district’s failure to hold elections for its commissioners. 

“Local governments across the state do important and valuable work for their communities," McCarthy said. "But a small group of special purpose districts that today do not answer for their use of public resources.”

The fraud report includes an online explainer called A Guide to Unauditable Governments in Washington, which calls out 35 other small government districts "that have failed to file any public financial information for years, rendering them unauditable."

The goal of the new report and online guide is to increase transparency and open government at all levels, according to McCarthy's office.