State auditors flag discrepancies in Lacey building permit fees

Otherwise compliant with state laws


Officials from the Washington State Auditor's Office said Lacey has generally been compliant with local and state laws, regulations and policies but the city also found itself under scrutiny regarding its management of building permit fees.

Auditors Lisa Carrell and Beau Villareal presented the city’s accountability audit report spanning January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2022, in a meeting with the city council and staff on January 30, 2024.

"Our audit found that mostly, the city's operations complied with local and state laws, regulations, and policies,” said Villareal.

However, Villareal highlighted a concerning issue related to building permit billings, noting discrepancies in fee calculations.

Villareal revealed that two fees totaling $2,929 should not have been charged, and several other fees were either undercharged or incorrectly charged.

Lesson learned

Lacey Finance Director Troy Woo acknowledged the seriousness of the findings, adding that the city already outlined a detailed response plan and is already developing a new resolution to address these issues.

“We want to make sure we get it right,” said Woo. “We certainly want to make sure that we maintain the public's trust in what we're doing.”

Mayor Andy Ryder also commented on the audit findings, admitting that there have been “some lessons learned.”

Ryder expressed his confidence in the former employee's precision in handling the calculations; however, the employee is no longer a part of the city staff. The mayor highlighted the importance of maintaining comprehensive documentation, particularly during staff turnover.

The mayor emphasized the need to ensure clarity and thoroughness in recording procedures, especially when handing over to new staff.

“I just know that, obviously, Lacey didn't do anything on purpose to mislead or to recover more fees than what we bought,” said Ryder. “We just needed to do a better job.”

Meanwhile, Villareal commended the city staff for their cooperation during the audit process.

The Washington State Auditor's Office said that it will publish the entire report on its website by mid-February.


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