Final chapters

The final play of the game, the last episode of a television series or the final book in a trilogy.  Those are milestones that both mark an end and signal the time to move on to what’s next.

This week I de-briefed the results of the State Auditor Office’s extensive 2020 audit with our Finance Team.  This most recent audit included an in-depth review of how Pierce County managed, spent, and accounted for the $158 million in CARES federal funding received to help our community with the impacts of the COVID pandemic.

As I have said before, I’m beyond proud of the way we invested those funds into our community during this devastating time. Our teams were quick, innovative and flexible.  They provided PPE, tested and vaccinated our residents, helped put food on tables, kept people housed with rental assistance, and supported struggling businesses – among many other efforts.  It was all done at a time of significant uncertainty – both regarding the pandemic and the ever-changing federal rules applying to the CARES funding.  Meeting the needs of our struggling community at this crucial time was our top priority.

Much of this work has since been recognized at the state and federal level for responsiveness, effectiveness, and transparency. The size and scope of the need, and the speed with which we needed to disburse the funds, certainly made it challenging.

Against that backdrop, I’m especially grateful to the entire Finance Team – in particular Gary Robinson, Tom Taylor and Brandon Kirkwood – for their steadfast commitment to transparency, clarity and accuracy.  In addition, the finance partners in the three primary departments receiving funds – Economic Development, Emergency Management, and Human Services – were vitally important in this effort to carefully account for the CARES funds.

The State Auditor’s review of our 2020 CARES work was comprehensive.  I knew our innovation, flexibility, and responsiveness in supporting our community, as well as the changing federal rules, created a significant challenge for our County. The State Auditor’s review noted only two items: one identified a conflict between federal rules and state direction on a specific program, and another concerned detailed reviews for our very successful rental assistance program.  These two items were also found in many jurisdictions across the state.

The most significant result for me?  This rigorous audit of thousands of transactions did not find any indications of fraud, misspending, or misappropriation of funds.  When you need to operate outside your normal processes – and especially when moving quickly to address key needs in the community – the risk of fraud increases.  We have all seen news stories from within our state and around the country where hundreds of millions of CARES funding was lost to fraud.

So, to close the book on our CARES spending to support our community during the pandemic, I am very proud of what we did, how we did it, and how we accounted for the spending!

Switching gears, I want to share a few photos from a recent ceremony we held to dedicate the new Lucas Landing at the Steilacoom ferry terminal. It’s a fitting and appropriate way to honor and remember Ron Lucas, a dedicated lifelong public servant.  The entire “book” of Ron’s life was filled with serving others – in the Army, as a teacher, and more than two decades as the mayor of Steilacoom.

My thanks to Ron’s family for allowing us to permanently recognize his tremendous service to our community.  This lasting “final chapter” is one that will be read over and over again by the residents of Pierce County.

With the beautiful new permanent tribute to Ron Lucas
Jan Lucas speaks about Ron
Sharing a laugh with Jan Lucas and Councilmember Hitchen

Thanks for reading,